Skip to main content

Full text of "Discourse on thinking"

See other formats


in 




UNIVERSITY 
OF FLORIDA 
LIBRARIES 




Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

Lyrasis Members and Sloan Foundation 



http://www.archive.org/details/discourseonthinkOOheid 



DISCOURSE ON THINKING 



MARTIN HEIDEGGER 
WORKS 

General Editor J. Glenn Gray 
Colorado College 



Also by Martin Heidegger 
BEING AND TIME 



MARTIN HEIDEGGER 

DISCOURSE 
ON THINKING 

A Translation of Gelassenheit 

by 

John M. Anderson and E. Hans Freund 

With an Introduction by 

John M. Anderson 




HARPER & ROW, PURLISHERS 
NEW YORK 



Originally published by Verlag Giinther Neske, Pfullingen under the title 
Gelassenheit, copyright © 1959 by Verlag Giinther Neske 

English translation by John M. Anderson and E. Hans Freund 

DISCOURSE ON THINKING. Copyright © 1966 in the English translation by- 
Harper & Row, Publishers, New York. Printed in the United States of 
America. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or repro- 
duced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the 
case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For in- 
formation address Harper & Row, Publishers, Incorporated, 49 East 33rd 
Street, New York 16, New York. 

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NUMBER: 65-15041 

D-Q 



CONTENTS 



PREFACE 

7 

INTRODUCTION 

11 

DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

41 

I. MEMORIAL ADDRESS 

43 

n. CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 
ABOUT THINKING 

58 

GLOSSARY 
91 



PREFACE 



Martin Heidegger's Discourse on Thinking* which is 
translated here, was published in 1959. It comprises a 
statement of the point of view of his later thought. Since 
Heidegger's later thought has evoked so much interest 
among philosophers and, in the last few years, theologians, 
it seems important to have significant examples of it avail- 
able in English. Discourse on Thinking is a particularly 
good example for this purpose not only because it is so re- 
cent, but because of its format and style. 

Discourse on Thinking has two parts: a Memorial Ad- 
dress in honor of the German composer, Conradin Kreutzer, 
which Heidegger delivered to a general audience, and a 
dialogue — or conversation- — in which the theme stated in 
the address is developed in a more specialized and profound 
way. The dialogue was written from more extended notes 
on a conversation dating from 1944—45 between a teacher, 
a scientist, and a scholar. 

The work provides an introduction to the later thought 
of Martin Heidegger, an introduction via his conception of 
meditative thinking, which is easily intelligible as it is ex- 
pressed in the Memorial Address. The Memorial Address 

1. Martin Heidegger, Gelassenheit (Pfullingen : Gunther Neske Verlag, 
1959). 



PREFACE 



formulates Heidegger's concern for meditative thinking, 
without elaborating the details of its fundamental nature. 
Nonetheless the Memorial Address makes clear Heidegger's 
understanding of the relation of meditative thinking to 
contemporary human life, and it states his claim that such 
thinking has a most important part to play in our life 
today. In addition, the style of the Address is clear, there 
is no technical terminology, and the Address has a poetic 
tone which conveys the high seriousness of the subject. 

Further, the explanatory Conversation provides a transi- 
tional introduction into the complexities of Heidegger's 
philosophy. It does so by virtue of being a conversation : 
the characters of the protagonists can be seen in relation to 
the ideas they are discussing, the goal of the enterprise is 
reflected in the attitudes of the speakers, and the free and 
poetic tone of the speech emphasizes the human significance 
of the undertaking. This is not to say that the Conversation 
is easily understood, for it is not. But the reader will be 
able to see why Heidegger's undertaking is important, and 
will be able to appreciate why the fulfillment of this un- 
dertaking is so extraordinarily difficult. 

Those well versed in the intricacies of Heidegger's 
thought may find the Conversation a refreshingly con- 
crete presentation of one of the fundamental points in his 
philosophy. The interplay of thought and argument, the 
free use of word and metaphor, the poetic summaries, all 
offer a new perspective on an abstract argument, which 
should be of help in rounding out an awareness of the 
vision Heidegger has of the place of man in Being. And 
for the philosopher or theologian as yet unacquainted with 
Martin Heidegger's thought, the Memorial Address and 



PREFACE y 

Conversation might well provide a tempting taste of a phi- 
losophy which already has a place in history. 

We wish to acknowledge our indebtedness to Professor 
Glenn Gray for many valuable suggestions which have 
materially improved the translation. We thank him for 
these and for much other help in this enterprise. We are 
indebted to the Central Fund for Research of The Pennsyl- 
vania State University for grants which made possible the 
completion of this work. 

John M. Anderson 
E. Hans Freund 



INTRODUCTION 



There are many who resist a certain kind of philosophy. 
They find it hard to enjoy, abstract, and apparently of no 
great practical value. It seems to them vague and obscure 
nonsense. There have always been such people in the vari- 
ous epochs of human history, just as there have always been 
those who find the revelations of speculative thinking to be 
of utmost importance. In early Hindu thought, for example, 
the contrast between the beast fable and the Upanishads re- 
flects this difference in outlook. The beast fables of the 
Panchatantra describe and point up a science of survival, a 
hard calculative view of life and its possibilities, and an 
unsentimental evaluation of its content: 

Make friends, make friends, however strong 

Or weak they be : 
Recall the captive elephants 

That mice set free. 

How sharply such admonitions contrast with the mystical 
messages of the Upanishads ! How clear they are in formu- 
lating the problems and methods of human survival, by 
casting them in the terms of animals and their ways — 
and how opaque and obscure are the Upanishads in their 
unremitting efforts to reveal the ultimate nature of things : 

11 



12 INTRODUCTION 

The knowing Self is not born, it dies not; it sprang 
from nothing, nothing sprang from it. 

The same split occurs in early Greek thought. Aesop's 
fables present to us the lessons in calculation which are 
the points of the Panchatantra; but the myths and tales of 
Hesiod's Theogony have another both more obscure and 
more fundamental point to make. 

It is this age-old difference in outlook which forms the 
basis for Martin Heidegger's Memorial Address in honor 
of the German composer Conradin Kreutzer. Heidegger 
finds the outlook of the beast fables represented in modern 
society by the calculative thinking of contemporary science 
and its applied disciplines. Here is the clear realism of 
animal life, the sharp and realistic view, the unsentimental 
outlook quick to take advantage of circumstances to attain 
an end. With this Heidegger contrasts another kind of 
thinking which he calls meditative, and which, he says, 
is implicit in man's nature. It is evident that he finds medi- 
tative thinking a difficult and cryptic enterprise, even if it 
is also one of which every man is capable. Indeed, one of 
the exhortations of his Address is to inspire us with the 
courage and persistence that are necessary to think in this 
way. And he would also make evident to us that to think 
in this way requires two attributes not at all common, two 
stands which man can take, and which he calls releasement 
toward things and openness to the mystery. 

Heidegger relieves somewhat the cryptic character of 
these attributes by showing their relevance to human life — 
by showing that man's integrity, his autochthony, depends 
upon such thinking. By this insistence he also drives home 
the importance of such thinking to man's very being, claim- 



INTRODUCTION 15 

ing, indeed, that even the ultimate meaning of the calcula- 
tive thinking of modern science and its humanly significant 
applications are discerned in and through meditative think- 
ing. But fundamentally Heidegger is urging his hearers 
and readers toward a kind of transmutation of themselves, 
toward a commitment which will enable them to pass out 
of their bondage to what is clear and evident but shallow, 
on to what is ultimate, however obscure and difficult that 
may be. 

Whatever the difficulty of Heidegger's enterprise and of 
its goal, the difficulty of carrying a reader toward it is not 
increased in the Memorial Address or the explanatory Con- 
versation by technical terminology or philosophical jargon. 
It is true that Heidegger is notorious for the use of coined 
words and phrases, and in many of his writings this in itself 
makes a grasp of his goal difficult. It is true also that 
Heidegger often illustrates his points by reference to earlier 
works in the history of philosophy and to earlier thinkers 
in complex and original ways, something which makes 
many of his essays and books uncommonly involved, even 
by philosophical standards. Yet in the Memorial Address 
and in the dialogue that develops its theme, Heidegger has 
chosen a different approach. There are almost no technical 
or coined terms ; indeed, there are essentially only three, 
translated here as releasement, in-dwelling, and that- 
which-regions. Since these words are so integrally con- 
nected with the goal of the Address and the dialogue, one 
may say that their meaning is made clear by the context as 
a whole (or that the context fails to make their meaning 
clear) . In any case, the peculiarity of the words is not a bar 
to understanding and participating in Heidegger's enter- 



14 INTRODUCTION 

prise, for the words only sum up and stand for the whole 
of what is being said, which is to be grasped on the basis 
of the entire presentation. That is, we should come to see 
the meaning of these special words as we are led toward the 
goal Heidegger sets for us. 

How does Heidegger lead us toward the transmutation 
of man he desires, if not by making extensive use of tech- 
nical terminology as in his earlier works? He does it, in 
part, by using a language that is simple and has the flavor 
of the earth. He strives for simile and metaphor involving 
the soil and growth, and by this means he achieves a poetic 
tone. Not that his sentence structure or paragraph organi- 
zation is poetic, for it is not; but phrases and words oc- 
curring in the larger context often evoke overtones of 
feeling associated with the land, with fields, and with what 
is the ground of things. 1 There is, then, no veil of words 
standing between the audience and Heidegger's conception 
of man's authentic nature ; rather, words are used with the 
directness of reference which only poetic handling can 
achieve. Yet the Address and dialogue are not especially 
easy to follow, although the former is much simpler than 
the latter. Actually, Heidegger writes in the manner and 
with the poetic tone of the mystics, as for example Meister 
Eckhart to whom he refers. Thus his enterprise might be 
conceived as similar in difficulty to the task of the mystics 
who, by an extraordinary and poetic use of words, want to 
take us with them beyond the ordinary and the familiar, to 
what is ultimate. 

1. For Heidegger's views on language and its function cf. Was ist Meta- 
physik? pp. 50 ff. (Frankfurt a.M.: Klostermann, 1929, 8th ed. 1960), and 
Unterwegs zur Sprache (Pfullingen: Gunther Neske, 1959). 



INTRODUCTION 15 

This raises the question of whether Heidegger's methods, 
typical of his later writings, provide a better method for 
dealing with the ultimate than is to be found in his earlier 
writings, particularly in Being and Time. It is often 
claimed that Heidegger in Being and Time failed to ac- 
complish what he intended. But what did he intend? The 
amount of technical terminology that must be mastered 
if we are to judge whether the enterprise projected in Being 
and Time succeeds or not is very great. Fortunately, such 
mastery is not essential to an understanding of the outlines 
of the enterprise itself. Indeed, Heidegger states the nature 
of the enterprise succinctly in the first pages of this work : 

Do we in our time have an answer to the question of what we really 
mean by the word "being"? Not at all. So it is fitting that we should 
raise anew the question of the meaning of Being. But are we now- 
adays even perplexed at our inability to understand the expression 
"Being"? Not at all. So first of all we must reawaken an under- 
standing for the meaning of this question. Our aim in the follow- 
ing treatise is to work out the question of the meaning of Being 
and to do so concretely. 2 

Evidently, Heidegger intends to reawaken modern man to 
the significance of the nature of Being, and to provide an 
account of its nature. This is a bold enterprise, and one 
which belongs in the mainstream of Western philosophy. 
Those who have read Being and Time will remember 
that one of its major themes is the claim that the traditional 
approaches to Being have failed 3 that the conception of Be- 
ing as a generic object, as beyond experience, has misled 
philosophical efforts to grasp its nature. In Being and Time, 
by contrast with that tradition, Heidegger follows a method 

2. Being and Time (Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1929), English translation by 
Mac(juarrie and Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 1. 



16 INTRODUCTION 

that begins with man and claims to proceed from his au- 
thentic existence to an understanding of Being. If a rich 
and complex analysis may be stated in a few sentences, 
one might say that Heidegger's method is to develop, first, 
an account of experience which discloses man as that being 
for whom his own being is at stake. He then proceeds to 
show that such a being as man is through and through 
temporal. Finally, he adumbrates an account which would 
lead from time to Being. To restate this analysis of experi- 
ence : when and to the extent that man comes to define 
himself as aware that his own being is at stake, he comes 
to authentic existence as temporal 5 and, as authentic, takes 
a place in and comprehends Being. 

The analysis of experience in Being and Time which is 
directed toward this end uses what is called the phenomeno- 
logical method, that is, it elicits from a variety of experi- 
ences certain pervasive structures of experience. These 
pervasive structures are, to use the Kantian term, transcen- 
dental, or, as Heidegger calls them, ontological; that is, 
they structure all of experience. Such structures ultimately 
reveal the temporal ground of man's being; as, for exam- 
ple, the structures called being toward death and resolve 
do, when we come to see that in them man is actively en- 
gaged in caring. 

The question we must ask next is whether a method 
eliciting man's temporal being in the terms of these tran- 
scendental structures enables Heidegger to carry out his 
enterprise and to formulate the nature of Being. As has 
been indicated, many readers of Being and Time have 
found the enterprise incomplete and incompletable. Logi- 
cally, the difficulty standing in the way of completion 



INTRODUCTION 17 

seems to be that the transcendental structures of experience 
which Heidegger elicits are formulated as static and final. 
These structures provide a grasp of man's being as tem- 
poral ; but because they are the structures of man's experi- 
ence, they can do this in a limited way only. These struc- 
tures constitute the horizons of human awareness, and a 
method which explicitly formulates them extends our un- 
derstanding beyond the contents of awareness to its deeper 
nature as such. The formulation of the horizons, the con- 
ditions of awareness, reveals man as temporal 3 but such a 
formulation reveals this solely as man sees it, solely in hu- 
man terms. There is in such a method an ineluctably sub- 
jective orientation which must characterize its results. Thus 
it seems impossible to escape from subjective distortions and 
to learn anything about Being as such by means of the 
method Heidegger used in Being and Time. What seems 
to be necessary in order to comprehend Being is a method 
of understanding which can grasp man's nature as tem- 
poral in terms of its ground, rather than simply in terms 
of the horizons of experience. Such a method could reveal 
man's temporality in relation to what was beyond man, 
and not merely in the terms of man himself. 

But there is circumstantial as well as logical evidence for 
believing that the enterprise of Being and Time remains 
incomplete. We know, for example, that Heidegger out- 
lined this work, initially, to include material not published 
in the book, although it is probable that it was written. 
Being and Time as published consists of but a part of a 
longer projected study. We know what the unpublished 
parts of this study were intended to contain, for we have 
Heidegger's word on the matter. In part, the projected but 



18 INTRODUCTION 

unpublished sections of the book were to have dealt with 
an analysis of the history of philosophy; and in part they 
were to have included an account of the relation between 
Time and Being. In this last part, it seems clear, the problem 
of how Being could be seen in relation to man's being as 
temporal was to have been discussed explicitly and, presum- 
ably, solved. That is, Heidegger's claim that Being can be 
disclosed along a path beginning in man's authentic ex- 
istence, which is fundamentally temporal, was to have been 
justified by showing the way to Being. That this part of the 
book has not yet been published, and that in the years im- 
mediately following the publication of Being and Time 
none of Heidegger's writings offers the solution, constitutes 
historical evidence that the method and categories of Being 
and Time were somehow inadequate to deal with the prob- 
lem effectively. Heidegger himself says of this part : 

The adequate reproduction of and participation in this other think- 
ing that leaves subjectivity behind is indeed rendered difficult by 
the fact that when Being and Time was published, the third Di- 
vision of the first Part, entitled "Time and Being" was held back. 
. . . The Division in question was held back because thinking 
failed in adequately articulating this turn, and did not achieve its 
goal by means of the language of metaphysics. 3 

This view is supported also by the fact that the book, 
Introduction to Metaphysics* published some years after 
Being and Time, deals with the problem of Being, but 
from a quite different direction. Where one might have 
supposed that the later book would be a completion of the 

3. Vber den Humanismus (Frankfurt a.M. : Klostermann, 1949), p. 178. 
There is evidence that a new formulation of "Time and Being" exists and 
will eventually be published. 

4. An Introduction to Metaphysics, English translation by Ralph Manheim 
(Yale University Press, 1959). 



INTRODUCTION 19 

enterprise begun earlier, it seems to be an independent in- 
quiry, or at least an experiment in a new approach. To 
define this different approach Heidegger asks again the 
traditional question : Why does something exist, rather 
than nothing? Evidently an answer to this question would 
reveal something about the nature of Being, since it would 
reveal the relation of particulars to their ground. Yet while 
Heidegger's efforts to answer this ultimate question are al- 
most as interesting as the question, they can not be said to 
have provided the answer. What he does is to present an 
illuminating criticism of European philosophy. In this 
criticism, he shows how the tradition of European philoso- 
phy has concerned itself with an analysis of the opposites 
of Being, such as becoming, appearance, and so on, and 
then has tried to transcend these opposites to arrive at Be- 
ing. And he, by contrast to this sophisticated approach, 
offers the suggestion that a return to the naive but un- 
distorted intuition of Being in the earliest Greek philoso- 
phers could put us on the right path. But it is not very 
clear in the Introduction to Metaphysics what this path 
could be. 

When we turn to Heidegger's later writings, for ex- 
ample the Memorial Address and Conversation which fol- 
low, we must view them in the light of the uncompleted 
enterprise formulated in Being and Time. We should ask, 
first, whether the enterprise is in general the same as the 
earlier one. If it is the same, we should ask, second, whether 
the methods used and the orientation to the problem are 
similar. Third, and finally, of course, we want to know 
whether the enterprise has at last succeeded. 

In the Memorial Address in honor of Conradin Kreutzer, 



20 INTRODUCTION 

Heidegger seeks to show his audience that it is time to re- 
new the search for a new ground of meaning, and that the 
sense of the importance of such a ground of meaning has 
been overlooked in the modern world where applied science 
and calculative thinking dominate our lives. He calls upon 
us to reawaken to a task we have forgotten;, and to under- 
take this task, however arduous it may be. He goes so far 
as to suggest that if this task is undertaken, it might be 
completed. The interesting thing in this analysis is that if 
the phrase "new ground of meaning" is substituted for the 
word "Being" in the passage quoted from Being and Time 
on page 1 5 above, the enterprise formulated in the Me- 
morial Address and that in Being and Time would be exactly 
the same. Indeed, the enterprise of reawakening an aware- 
ness of the significance of Being, and of determining the 
nature of Being, seems characteristic of both the earlier and 
the later Heidegger. This answers our first question. 

But that answer raises the second question : Is the method 
in these later writings the same as in the earlier ones? It 
has been noted already that the answer to this question is 
partially negative, at least. For it has been noted that 
Heidegger's use of language is markedly different in his 
later writings, and particularly in those translated here. 
Here he does not rely upon technical terminology, but upon 
poetic directness. However important this is, it is not the 
whole story ; and there is at least one sense in which Heideg- 
ger's method in the Memorial Address and the Conversation 
is the same as in his earlier writing's. In the Memorial 
Address it is claimed that man's nature includes the capac- 
ity for meditative thinking, and that the proper exercise of 
this capacity, difficult though it is in terms of releasement 



INTRODUCTION 21 

toward things and openness to mystery, can lead to a new 
ground of meaning. This is the claim that man's nature pro- 
vides the basis through which one wins an understanding of 
Being. Clearly, this is the method of Being and Time car- 
ried over. It is interesting; to observe in this connection that 
the method of the Conversation is the same, for there each 
stage in the approach to Being depends upon the develop- 
ment of a stage in the nature of thinking, which is man's 
nature. In a very general way, then, the approach in Being 
and Time to Being, and in the Memorial Address and the 
Conversation to a new ground of meaning, is the same. Yet 
this similarity must not remain unqualified, for Heidegger 
himself has said : 

I have forsaken an earlier position, not to exchange it for another, 
but because even the former position was only a pause on the way. 
What lasts in thinking is the way. 5 

In this reference to his earlier thought, Heidegger clearly 
indicates that there has been a major change. Yet, if the 
nature of Being is still the end at which thought aims, and 
if thought is still conceived as moving toward this end 
through man, in what does the change consist? 

The Memorial Address and the Conversation which de- 
velops its theme reflect this change in the conception of the 
defining character of man's nature. In Being and Time this 
character is understood as the transcendental structure of 
experience. But in the Memorial Address and the Conversa- 
tion, as in other later works, this character is understood 
quite differently. How, then, is it conceived there? It is 
conceived as the way in which man is involved immediately 

5. Unterwegs zur Sprache (Pf ullingen : Giinther Neske, 1959), pp. 98 ff. 



22 INTRODUCTION 

and directly in Being. Some aspects of this new understand- 
ing are evident in the Conversation. First, the Conversation 
begins with a cryptic statement of this new conception at- 
tributed to the Teacher, who says that "... the question 
concerning man's nature is not a question about man." 6 
This seems to be a paradoxical statement, and yet the sug- 
gestion is that the development of this idea is to be a theme 
of the subsequent discussion. Implied in this claim, that 
man's nature is to be found in relation to something else, is 
a suggestion that to comprehend man one must transcend 
the specifically and merely human, the subjective. 

Heidegger expresses this claim metaphorically by plac- 
ing the Conversation "far from human habitation." It is 
worth noting that the Conversation begins at a distance 
from what is merely human, and that it is terminated at a 
point where the participants once again approach human 
habitation : the symbolic significance should not be missed. 
But, third, Heidegger also develops this claim explicitly in 
a number of ways. For one example, consider the nature 
of waiting as it is analyzed in the Conversation. Waiting is 
a human activity, of course; but Heidegger wants to show 
that it has a deeper significance and involves a reference 
beyond the merely human, the subjective. Normally, when 
we wait we wait for something which interests us or which 
can provide us with what we want. When we wait in this 
human way, waiting involves our desires, goals, and needs. 
But waiting need not be so definitely colored by our nature. 
There is a sense in which we can wait without knowing 
for what we wait. We may wait, in this sense, without 
waiting for anything ; for anything, that is, which could 

6. "Conversation," p. 58 below. 



INTRODUCTION 25 

be grasped and expressed in subjective human terms. In 
this sense we simply wait; and in this sense waiting may 
come to have a reference beyond man. The difference be- 
tween these two kinds of waiting may be expressed by say- 
ing that when we wait in a merely human way we wait 
for, whereas in the deeper sense of waiting we wait upon. 
The different prepositions are intended to refer in the case 
of "for" to subjective human expectations of some sort, but 
in the case of "upon" to what is, if given, a gift. As Heideg- 
ger says: "In waiting [upon] we leave open what we are 
waiting for." 7 This is to say that man's true nature may 
relate directly to what transcends him, however difficult it 
may be to state this in ordinary terms. In the context of 
the Conversation, this possible transcendence, which is 
found in man's true nature, is developed as a transcendence 
to Being. 

Yet one may object that while an analysis of waiting into 
two kinds is suggestive, it is hardly conclusive in showing 
that the movement from man to Being can be made if the 
correct path is discerned. Waiting upon does not evoke Be- 
ing, even though the suggestion is that if anything re- 
sponded to such waiting, it would be Being. Let us, there- 
fore, consider another aspect of the relation of man to what 
transcends him. The comprehension of meditative thinking 
as a structure of man relating directly to Being is clearly 
the central theme of the Address and Conversation. Of 
course, thinking is peculiarly human; but it is human in at 
least two senses. The traditional and usual view of thinking 
sees it as the representing of what is typical of things; that 
is, as a kind of human activity leading to an understanding 

7. "Conversation," p. 68 below. 



24 INTRODUCTION 

of objects. In this sense it is a kind of willing, and so to be 
seen as something specifically and merely human. At one 
extreme this is what Heidegger calls calculative thinking, 
which is characterized by human methods of approaching 
things, and by the fact that in calculative thinking we deal 
with things in our terms for our advantage. Yet there is 
a second sense of thinking, analogous to the second sense 
of waiting, in which thought refers beyond the human, 
transcends reference to human affairs : this is meditative 
thinking. 

Thinking of this second sort does exist. It is to be found, 
for one example, throughout the whole Conversation. And 
such thinking has a content, it is about something. To begin 
to comprehend what is involved in this kind of thinking, we 
may observe, somewhat negatively, that it does not repre- 
sent, that it does not construct a world of objects. By con- 
trast to representative thinking, it is thinking which allows 
content to emerge within awareness, thinking which is open 
to content. Now thinking which constructs a world of ob- 
jects understands these objects 5 but meditative thinking 
begins with an awareness of the field within which these 
objects are, an awareness of the horizon rather than of the 
objects of ordinary understanding. Meditative thinking be- 
gins with an awareness of this kind, and so it begins with 
content which is given to it, the field of awareness itself. 

When viewed from within, as by a practitioner, for ex- 
ample, certain properties of meditative thinking may be 
discerned. Indeed, one of these properties has just been 
pointed out. Meditative thinking is thinking which is open 
to its content, open to what is given. A man engaged in 
meditative thinking might well characterize what he was 



INTRODUCTION 25 

doing as being open 5 that is, he might comprehend medita- 
tive thinking as a fundamental property of human nature, 
the property of openness. Yet such thinking does not involve 
what is ordinarily called an act of will; for one does not will 
to be open. Quite the contrary, meditative thinking involves 
an annulling of the will. Yet, such thinking is not a passive 
affair either; clearly, man does not come to be open through 
indifference or neglect. To be open is difficult for man. 
Since openness involves meditative thinking, it is suggestive 
to speak of this thinking as a higher kind of activity than 
willing. But perhaps the real point is that this kind of think- 
ing lies, as Heidegger says, ". . . beyond the distinction 
between activity and passivity. . . ." 8 

Let us regard meditative thinking, then, as a higher kind 
of activity than is involved in the exercise of any subjective 
human power. We might think of it, metaphorically, as the 
activity of walking along a path which leads to Being. Cer- 
tainly metaphorically, the conversation along the path 
referred to in the Conversation symbolizes such an activity 
and such a direction. In any case, this higher activity of 
thinking in relation to the openness involved in it is so im- 
portant that it needs a special name. Heidegger calls it re- 
leasement. Releasement is a defining characteristic of 
man's true nature involving openness and, through it, di- 
rect and immediate reference beyond man to Being. 

Releasement involves openness, but it would be mislead- 
ing to suppose that that involvement is adequately sketched 
by the relatively simple account of the preceding para- 
graphs. One goal of the Conversation is to provide a devel- 
oping comprehension of releasement as it involves and is 

8. "Conversation," p. 61 below. 



26 INTRODUCTION 

involved in Being. In consequence, for example, Heidegger 
speaks of two aspects of releasement, the first of which is 
being released from, and the second, authentic releasement, 
may be described as being released to. 9 Again, for another 
example, releasement has hidden in it, he says, a kind of 
steadfastness which is related to a resolve for truth, and 
which when fully comprehended is to be called "in-dwell- 
ing." 10 Meditative thinking is not a simple opening to Be- 
ing, as the nature of authentic releasement (releasement 
to) might suggest, for it involves a resolve in regard to 
Being. In meditative thinking, man opens to Being and 
resolves for its disclosure. Such a resolve is not an exercise 
of subjective human powers 5 rather, it is taking a stand 
which reveals Being, a kind of dwelling in Being. This in- 
ner nature of releasement must be considered later in this 
introduction 5 it is mentioned here only to emphasize the 
complexity of the relation of releasement and openness. 

The defining character of man's nature (meditative 
thinking) , then, is conceived in the Conversation in a way 
radically different from that in Being and Time. The 
transcendental structure of experience analyzed in Being 
and Time in such terms as being-in-the-world, being- 
toward-death, and temporality is replaced in the Conversa- 
tion by an analysis of the higher activity of meditative 
thinking which involves Being directly. The intention of 
this change is revealed as a deliberate effort of Heidegger 
to assure the possibility of moving through man to Being. 
There is no doubt that Heidegger believes this to be pos- 
sible in the terms of meditative thinking, for he does not 

9. "Conversation," p. 73 below. 
10. "Conversation," p. 81 S. below. 



INTRODUCTION 27 

hesitate to speak directly about Being and to give an ac- 
count of its nature. In the Conversation, however, Heideg- 
ger does not use the word Being $ but in order to stress an 
inherent openness and activity of Being, he uses the word 
region and its cognates instead. That is, a region is open ; 
moreover, it is possible to designate a region as inherently 
dynamic by using the phrase that-which-regions, and, even 
further, to use the verb regioning to express this activity 
directly. But let us quote from such a direct account of 
Being in these new terms to illustrate the point we are 
making. 

The region gathers, just as if nothing were happening, each to 
each and each to all into an abiding, while resting in itself. Region- 
ing is a gathering and re-sheltering for an expanded resting in an 
abiding. So the region itself is at once an expanse and an abiding. 
It abides into the expanse of resting. It expands into the abiding 
of what has freely turned toward itself. . . - 11 

Now the point is not that these sentences be clear out of 
context, but that they claim to give an explicit account of 
Being, of that-which-regions 5 and that this account has 
been reached from the starting point of meditative thought, 
of man's nature. 

Three questions were asked above about the characteris- 
tics of Heidegger's later thought. The first two have been 
answered, for we concluded that the goal of his later thought 
is the same as, but its method different from, that of his 
earlier thought. Does Heidegger's enterprise, as developed 
in his later thought, succeed? This was the third question, 
and it remains before us. It would be impossible in this 
brief introduction to formulate an answer to such a basic 

11. "Conversation," p. 66 below. 



28 INTRODUCTION 

question 5 but the key to its answer can be suggested. The 
whole of the claim implicit in the account Heidegger gives 
of Being in the Conversation rests upon the assumption that 
the analysis of man's nature, as found in meditative think- 
ing, provides the key to a direct approach to Being. Close 
attention to the nature of this assumption, and to the evi- 
dence which Heidegger gives for it, will provide consider- 
able insight into the problem of its justification. 

In the Conversation, three kinds of evidence seem to be 
offered for the justification of this assumption. This evi- 
dence amounts to showing that Being as reached through 
meditative thinking is partly identical with the nature and 
movement of such thinking. Certainly if this were not so, 
meditative thinking would be powerless to reach Being. 
The details given in the Conversation must be studied 
carefully to understand the point fully, and here a sug- 
gestion of the argument and its results must suffice. Fortu- 
nately, it is the nature of the evidence, and not its details, 
which is important for an understanding of Heidegger's 
general claim. Thus we may observe first that meditative 
thinking is an opening of man to something, as is empha- 
sized by calling such thinking releasement. 

In releasement man is open, that is, is an openness. What 
then, we may ask, does man open to ? In a word, of course, 
the answer is : to the given. But Heidegger is not content 
to present this answer, for he wishes to justify the identity 
he is claiming. To do so, he argues that the given, too, is an 
openness and, as we shall see, an opening. Meditative think- 
ing characterizes man's true nature, his being, as openness 
in which he is partly identified with the given. Man be- 



INTRODUCTION 29 

comes partly identified with the given by opening to it as, 
in turn, the given opens to him. 

Let us consider this argument somewhat more carefully. 
As already noted, meditative thinking involves an aware- 
ness of the field of awareness, or, as Heidegger likes to say, 
an awareness of the horizon of the consciousness of objects. 
If one comprehends this situation fully, one sees that medi- 
tative thinking is an opening to what is beyond the horizon 
of such knowing. But the possibility of any such opening 
must depend to some degree upon what lies beyond the 
horizon, and, indeed, upon the openness of that. To restate 
the argument : viewed from within, our consciousness of the 
world of objects is an unbounded field of awareness; viewed 
from within, this field of awareness has no fixed limits, 
but only a horizon. In part, meditative thinking consists in 
becoming aware of the horizon as such, that is, as an open- 
ing out and so as standing open. But an awareness of the 
horizon in this explicit sense as an openness is possible just 
because the horizon is set within an openness of which it is 
but one side, as it were. The openness in which the horizon 
of consciousness is set Heidegger calls the region. 

What is evident of the horizon [its openness], then, is but the side 
facing us of an openness which surrounds us; an openness which 
is filled with views of the appearances of what to our re-pre- 
senting are objects. In consequence the horizon is still some- 
thing else besides a horizon . . . [and] this something else is the 
other side of itself, and so the same as itself. You say that the 
horizon is the openness which surrounds us. But what is this open- 
ness as such, if we disregard that it can also appear as the horizon 
of our re-presenting? It strikes me as something like a region. . . } 
12. "Conversation," p. 64 ft. below. 



30 INTRODUCTION 

That openness of man which is grounded in the openness 
of the region is but a part of the identity of man and the 
given of which we are speaking. A more important part of 
this identity is to be found in a common activity. As we 
have noted, the openness of man is an opening, a kind of 
higher activity. The openness of the region which is the 
ground of man's opening must also be grasped as move- 
ment, something which is easier if we name it properly as 
that-which-regions. The openness of the region is not a 
vacuum ; if it were, it would go unnoticed by man. Man's 
opening must occur in his awareness of the givenness of 
the transcendental horizon. As Heidegger says, ". . . the 
horizon is but the side of that-which-regions turned toward 
our re-presenting. That-which-regions surrounds us and 
reveals itself to us as the horizon." 13 Or again, "... It 
seems a region holds what comes forward to meet us; but 
we also said of the horizon that out of the view which it 
encircles, the appearance of objects comes to meet us. If 
now we comprehend the horizon through the region, we 
take the region itself as that which comes to meet us." 4 The 
basic sense in which the region is an opening is complex, 
and is not perfectly stated in these quotations. However, 
the point being made is just that the region is an opening; 
that we can and must refer to it as that-which-regions ; and 
that we can refer to its opening as such, that is, to region- 
ing. In the opening of the region, its regioning, we have 
what supports and manifests itself in part as the opening 
of man, his meditative thinking. 

Now it is true that since that-which-regions is a region- 

13. "Conversation," p. 72 ff. below. 

14. "Conversation," p. 65 below. 



INTRODUCTION 31 

ing, a movement, we can understand man's nature as 
brought forth in this movement. That-which-regions is a 
dynamic ground in which man's nature emerges. Yet there 
is something unsatisfactory if the matter is left here, for 
such an account seems to place man and meditative think- 
ing as but a moment in the given development of that- 
which-regions : it stresses the identity of man and that- 
which-regions. Such an account hardly touches upon the 
fact that meditative thinking does not simply occur as a 
part of a more inclusive, given development. Clearly, such 
thinking is more than an instance of such development 5 
it also serves to receive the development. The reference 
of meditative thinking to that-which-regions as partly iden- 
tical with man may be seen in releasement as such. In re- 
leasement as such, thinking is open to its ground as given. 
But the reference of thinking to that-which-regions as re- 
ceiver of it may be seen only in what Heidegger calls in- 
dwelling. As in-dwelling, meditative thinking expresses the 
requirement of becoming true for that-which-regions. 
Through in-dwelling, man is able to express a resolve for 
truth. It is important not to misunderstand this requirement 
as a subjective one 5 for while the resolve for truth is made 
by man, what is required by him is independent of him. 
Truth is not subjective. Essentially, the resolve for truth 
is a requirement that the regioning of that-which-regions 
be an unveiling. In such disclosure, man's nature as think- 
ing serves not to create or to impose structure, but for 
". . . a receiving of the regioning of that-which-re- 
gions." 15 Evidently there is a mutual relation here, for 
Heidegger says, ". . . the nature of man is released to 

15. "Conversation," p. 81 below. 



32 INTRODUCTION 

that-which-regions because this belongs to it so essentially, 
that without man that-which-regions can not be a coming 
forth of all natures, as it is." 16 Man is essential to this dis- 
closure. 

Clearly, then, the identity noted in man's opening and 
openness and the opening and openness of that-which- 
regions expresses only the relation of man to the given, and 
so is but a partial identity. The relation between man and 
that-which-regions is much more complex than this, for 
the sense in which meditative thinking: receives and is 
necessary for the coming forth of all natures is as important 
as this identity. Thus, to proceed from man's nature to 
Being, Heidegger needs to produce a second kind of evi- 
dence that this is possible. This is the evidence that man's 
nature as it expresses the requirement of becoming true, 
the coming forth of all natures, is compatible with that- 
which-regions and can play a positive part in this respect. 

Man, in this sense, is the peculiar being with respect to 
whom that-which-regions unveils and discloses. This dis- 
tinction of man, expressed in his resolve for truth, makes 
him the standard for and the recipient of the disclosure of 
that-which-regions; man stands out in order to be where 
that-which-regions unveils. Or, we might say, man, as in- 
dwelling, stands within that-which-regions and effectively 
resolves for its disclosure, its coming forth in truth. But 
how can this disclosure take place? How is this aspect of 
man's nature interwoven compatibly with the underlying 
identity already noted? The difficulty of showing how this 
is done is just the difficulty of showing how man is brought 
forth in the regioning of that-which-regions and yet comes 

16. "Conversation," p. 83 below. 



INTRODUCTION 33 

forth in such a distinctive way — of showing, that is, how it 
is that man's nature is necessary because of having its 
ground in the givenness of that-which-regions, and yet is 
emergent as a nature which resolves for and receives the 
disclosure of its ground. Heidegger seeks to make the diffi- 
cult analysis which will clarify this point, first in terms of 
history, and then in an interesting generalization with 
respect to truth based upon his interpretation of history. 

There is a sense in which, as a consequence of man's re- 
solve for truth, that-which-regions is disclosed in history. 17 
To understand this we must observe initially that the process 
of that-which-regions, its regioning, takes place in two 
quite different ways. To emphasize this difference, Heideg- 
ger refers to this process when it results in things as deter- 
mining, but when it results in man he calls it regioning 
with respect to man. Put in this way, this duality empha- 
sizes man's nature as involved in and involving truth, and 
contrasts it with the nature of things. Yet Heidegger holds 
that man's requirement of truth is the basis of the relation 
of man to things and that this relation occurs as history. To 
be grasped as functioning in this way, history must be 
understood in a very fundamental sense, that is, as ". . . a 
history which does not consist in the happenings and deeds 
of the world. . . . Nor in the cultural achievements of 
man." 18 What is fundamental in history is not its obvious 
sequential character but, rather, historical thinking. 
Thus ". . . the concept of the historical means a mode of 
knowing and is understood broadly." 19 From this perspec- 

17. For a general account of history see Identitat und Differenz (Pful- 
lingen: Giinther Neske, 1957), p. 64 and elsewhere. 

18. "Conversation," p. 79 below. 

19. Cf. Identitat und Differenz, p. 51. 



34 INTRODUCTION 

tive we should look for history where the articulation of 
the natures of things occurs, as in the evolution of the 
subject-object relation or in the sciences understood metho- 
dologically. As these examples suggest, such history re- 
lates man to things because through it things are sustained 
by man's requirement that they become true, for this is a 
requirement that the nature of things be brought forth. 
Such an articulation, such history, is an aspect of the dis- 
closure of that-which-regions, a disclosure which takes 
place in relation to man. 

Now history, as a mode of knowing, is a kind of re- 
collecting, a returning to origins as well as an articulation 
of the nature of things. But it is a return to origins not 
merely in the sense of recounting an intelligible story of 
development and change. As a mode of knowing, it is a 
return to origins in the sense in which intelligibility must 
have its roots in what is prior to thought, must abide in 
what is the source of all articulation. It is in this most 
fundamental sense that history involves a beginning. His- 
torical knowing necessarily has origins which are prior to it, 
and it comprises an intelligible expansion which develops 
in the terms of these origins. 

But what are these origins? We may understand some- 
thing more about them if we look at the more general 
circumstances of the bringing forth of all natures, of which 
history is an aspect. To comprehend fully this bringing 
forth of all natures, one must observe that for man to re- 
solve for truth and so to serve that-which-regions in this 
movement is to set aside subjective demands and pretensions, 
to be, in a word, noble. Now nobility connotes heritage and 
origins 3 and suggests, in consequence, that resolving for 



INTRODUCTION 55 

truth involves a return to man's origins. This "step back- 
ward," this return becomes explicit, not in going back to a 
literal beginning, but in the awareness that thinking as 
the resolve for truth is grounded. 20 The resolve for truth 
which expresses that-which-regions as the bringing forth 
of all natures, is not a subjective expression; rather, it 
springs from an inner necessity which man can come to 
understand as the ground of his thinking itself. It is not a 
necessity forced upon man from without. As an inner 
necessity it is given to man as a gift, a gift which justifies 
man in serving that-which-regions as the being for whom 
the unveiling of that-which-regions occurs. His service in 
this exalted way is not accident, but a necessity demon- 
strated by the nature of thinking as having an origin prior 
to thought. And what is this origin? It is the nature of that- 
which-regions. "In the nature of thinking so understood, 
we may have found what we seek. . . . This is the nature 
of that-which-regions." 21 

Let us pause briefly to note explicitly that our analysis 
has led us to the nature of that-which-regions. The ground 
of meditative thinking, as it involves a resolve for truth, 
is not that-which-regions, but its nature. Meditative think- 
ing, therefore, not only has two aspects corresponding to 
the two kinds of evidence we have been examining, but 
it is grounded in two aspects of that-which-regions. Medita- 
tive thinking as an openness and opening may be said to be 
grounded in that-which-regions as undisclosed, as veiled. 
And meditative thinking as involving the resolve for truth 
may be said to be grounded in that-which-regions as dis- 

20. Cf. Identitdt und Differenz, p. 51. 

21. "Conversation," p. 85 below. My italics. 



36 INTRODUCTION 

closed, as unveiled. Yet as soon as we state the relation of 
meditative thinking to its grounds in this way, we suggest 
strongly that these grounds are related, since "that-which- 
regions and its nature can't really be two different things 
. . . the self of that-which-regions is presumably its 
nature and identical with itself." 22 And implicit in this sug- 
gestion (which, indeed, Heidegger holds to be correct) is a 
further insight. If we could understand the relation of the 
two aspects of meditative thinking, this would give us 
the clue to the sense in which that-which-regions and its 
nature are related and together ground meditative think- 
ing as a whole and so man. 

Perhaps the relation of the two aspects of meditative 
thinking which we have kept apart here is not too difficult to 
sketch. Heidegger very early in the Conversation formulates 
what he calls a "daring definition" of thinking. "Then 
thinking would be coming-into-the-nearness of distance." 
The movement of thinking referred to here is just the turn- 
ing of thought toward what is given, just the opening of 
thought to the given as such $ and the approaching of what 
is given through the demand in thought that this be artic- 
ulated and so become true. We may conceive of the turn- 
ing toward the given and the opening to the given as set- 
ting the given at a distance, for this movement distinguishes 
thinking from its given content. And we may conceive of 
the resolve for truth as a movement of approach, as nearing 
the given, since this movement elicits and reveals. And if 
we so conceive meditative thinking in its two aspects as 
nearing and distancing, then, as Heidegger says, ". . . 

22. "Conversation," p. 86 below. 

23. "Conversation," p. 68 below. 



INTRODUCTION 37 

perhaps we can express our experience during this conversa- 
tion by saying that we are coming near to and so at the same 
time remaining distant from that-which-regions. . . ." 
If so, this complex movement would provide the concept 
needed to understand the identity of that-which-regions and 
its *nature. 

Because that-which-regions regions all, gathering everything to- 
gether and letting everything return to itself, to rest in its own iden- 
tity. Then that-which-regions itself would be nearing and distancing 
... a characterization which should not be thought of dialecti- 
cally . . . [but] in accordance with the nature of thinking. . . . 

This third compatibility of thinking and that-which-regions 
must not be viewed statically; it must be comprehended as 
an intricate movement weaving the given and veiled aspect 
of that-which-readons into its unveiled and articulated as- 
pect. Not any part, but the whole of this movement is Being. 
This bold characterization of Being has been reached 
through man, for Heidegger's claim to have proceeded from 
man to Being rests upon his analysis of meditative think- 
ing. In this analysis there are central strands of three kinds. 
In the first place, there are the two analyses which claim 
to show that meditative thinking can be grounded in that- 
which-regions as such and in the nature of that-which- 
regions. We have considered these analyses in the last few 
pages. They are analyses that lead from certain specifiable 
characteristics of thinking to what grounds thinking so 
far as it has these characteristics. We refer to the character- 
istics of opening and openness on the one hand, and to the 
resolve for truth on the other. The third analysis support- 

24. "Conversation," p. 86 below. 

25. "Conversation," p. 86 below. 



38 INTRODUCTION 

ing Heidegger's claim that Being is attainable has just been 
given. It is an analysis suggesting that the continuity be- 
tween the two aspects of thought which is found in the 
movement of "coming-into-the-nearness of distance" must 
reflect a continuity between the apparently different 
grounds of these aspects, that is, between that-which- 
regions as such and its nature. 

As soon as this final analysis is presented it justifies shift- 
ing perspective from man to Being. It justifies such state- 
ments as "Truth's nature can come forth independently of 
man only because the nature of man (as releasement to 
that-which-regions) is used by that-which-regions in re- 
gioning both with respect to man and to sustain determin- 
ing. Evidently truth's independence from man is a relation 
to human nature, a relation which rests on the regioning 
of human nature into that-which-regions." It justifies 
asking such a question as, "Yet what then would be the 
nature of thinking if that-which-regions is the nearness 
of distance?" 27 From the perspective afforded by this final 
analysis, one is able to see man's nature, the nature of think- 
ing, as determined by Being, as ". . . the essentially 
human relation to that-which-regions. . . ." 28 Evidently 
we stand here in the midst of the ultimate, having stepped 
beyond our subjective human perspective — yet a word of 
caution is necessary ! And, indeed, Heidegger cautions us in 
a number of ways. Thus, to depict this view he uses, and 
says he uses, the subjunctive mood, ". . . for some time 
. . . we have said everything in the mode of supposition 

26. "Conversation," p. 84 below. 

27. "Conversation," p. 86 below. 

28. "Conversation," p. 87 below. 



INTRODUCTION 39 

only." 29 Thus, to name the nature of thinking in its de- 
pendence upon that-which-regions, he falls back upon the 
Greek word comprising Heraclitus' 122nd Fragment, and 
then deliberately reads meaning into it until it seems to be 
"the best name for what we have found." 30 But at just this 
point he adds, "Which in its nature, nevertheless, we are 
still seeking." 31 And, finally, he personifies Being in the 
imaginative figure of Night and recasts the argument 
imaginatively, for "the child in man." 

By such cautionary words and modes of expression, 
Heidegger wishes to prevent too literal and too strict an in- 
terpretation of what can be said from the midst of the ulti- 
mate. We may understand the significance of this caution 
if we recall that it is the continuity, attained in the inter- 
weaving in thinking of opening and openness on the one 
hand, and the resolve for truth on the other, that provides 
the final step to Being. We may be inclined to forget, in 
the intoxicating moment when we stand on this step, that 
the continuity achieved is specific and particular, that it is 
just that continuity which it is, and that it probably will 
vanish. If we forget this, we shall forget, too, that the 
continuity of thinking as specific and particular must reflect 
something specific and particular about the movement 
identifying that-which-regions as such and its nature, some- 
thing of the vanishing which is an aspect of Being. 

John M. Anderson 

29. "Conversation," p. 85 below. 

30. "Conversation," p. 89 below. 

31. "Conversation," p. 89 below. 

32. "Conversation," p. 89 below. 



DISCOURSE ON THINKING 



MEMORIAL ADDRESS* 



Let my first public word in my home town be a word of 
thanks. 

I thank my homeland for all that it has given me along 
the path of my life. I have tried to explain the nature of 
this endowment in those few pages entitled "Der Feldweg" 1 
which first appeared in 1 949 in a book honoring the hun- 
dredth anniversary of the death of Conradin Kreutzer. I 
thank Mayor Schiihle for his warm-hearted welcome. And 
I am especially grateful for the privilege of giving the 
memorial address at today's ceremony. 

Honored Guests, Friends and Neighbors! We are 
gathered together in commemoration of the composer Con- 
radin Kreutzer, a native of our region. If we are to honor 
a man whose calling it is to be creative, we must, above all, 
duly honor his work. In the case of a musician this is done 
through the performance of his compositions. 

Conradin Kreutzer's compositions ring forth today in 

* This speech was presented at the celebration of the 175th birthday of 
the composer Conradin Kreutzer on October 50, 1955, in Messkirch. 

1. Country Path (Tr.) . 

2. Conradin Kreutzer (1780-1849), German composer and conductor. He 
was highly productive in concert, chamber and church music, operas and 
musical plays, choruses and songs. Of his works some of his choruses for 
men and one of his operas are still well known in Germany. (Tr.) 

43 



44 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

song and chorus, in opera and in chamber music. In these 
sounds the artist himself is present; for the master's pres- 
ence in the work is the only true presence. The greater the 
master, the more completely his person vanishes behind his 
work. 

The musicians and singers who take part in today's cele- 
bration are a warrant that Conradin Kreutzer's work will 
come to be heard on this occasion. 

But does this alone constitute a memorial celebration? 
A memorial celebration means that we think back, that we 
think. Yet what are we to think and to say at a memorial 
which is devoted to a composer? Is it not the distinction of 
music to "speak" through the sounding of tones and so not 
to need ordinary language, the language of words? So they 
say. And yet the question remains : Do playing and singing 
alone make our celebration a thoughtful celebration, one in 
which we think? Hardly! And so a "memorial address" has 
been put on the program. It is to help us to think back both 
to the composer we honor and to his work. These memories 
come alive as soon as we relate the story of Conradin 
Kreutzer's life, and recount and describe his works. 
Through such a relating we can find much that is joyful 
and sorrowful, much that is instructive and exemplary. But 
at bottom we merely allow ourselves to be entertained by 
such a talk. In listening to such a story, no thinking at all 
is needed, no reflecting is demanded on what concerns 
each one of us immediately and continuously in his very 
being. Thus even a memorial address gives no assurance 
that we will think at a memorial celebration. 

Let us not fool ourselves. All of us, including those who 
think professionally, as it were, are often enough thought- 



MEMORIAL ADDRESS 45 

poor ; we all are far too easily thought-less. Thoughtlessness 
is an uncanny visitor who comes and goes everywhere in 
today's world. For nowadays we take in everything in the 
quickest and cheapest way, only to forget it just as quickly, 
instantly. Thus one gathering follows on the heels of an- 
other. Commemorative celebrations grow poorer and poorer 
in thought. Commemoration and thoughtlessness are found 
side by side. 

But even while we are thoughtless, we do not give up 
our capacity to think. We rather use this capacity implicitly, 
though strangely : that is, in thoughtlessness we let it lie 
fallow. Still only that can lie fallow which in itself is a 
ground for growth, such as a field. An expressway, where 
nothing grows, cannot be a fallow field. Just as we can 
grow deaf only because we hear, just as we can grow old 
only because we were young; so we can grow thought-poor 
or even thought-less only because man at the core of his 
being has the capacity to think; has "spirit and reason" 
and is destined to think. We can only lose or, as the phrase 
goes, get loose from that which we knowingly or unknow- 
ingly possess. 

The growing thoughtlessness must, therefore, spring 
from some process that gnaws at the very marrow of man 
today : man today is in flight from thinking. This flight- 
from-thought is the ground of thoughtlessness. But part of 
this flight is that man will neither see nor admit it. Man 
today will even flatly deny this flight from thinking. He 
will assert the opposite. He will say — and quite rightly — 
that there were at no time such far-reaching plans, so many 
inquiries in so many areas, research carried on as passion- 
ately as today. Of course. And this display of ingenuity and 



46 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

deliberation has its own great usefulness. Such thought 
remains indispensable. But — it also remains true that it is 
thinking of a special kind. 

Its peculiarity consists in the fact that whenever we plan, 
research, and organize, we always reckon with conditions 
that are given. We take them into account with the cal- 
culated intention of their serving specific purposes. Thus we 
can count on definite results. This calculation is the mark of 
all thinking that plans and investigates. Such thinking re- 
mains calculation even if it neither works with numbers 
nor uses an adding machine or computer. Calculative think- 
ing computes. It computes ever new, ever more promising 
and at the same time more economical possibilities. Cal- 
culative thinking races from one prospect to the next. 
Calculative thinking never stops, never collects itself. Cal- 
culative thinking is not meditative thinking, not thinking 
which contemplates the meaning which reigns in every- 
thing that is. 

There are, then, two kinds of thinking, each justified 
and needed in its own way : calculative thinking and medi- 
tative thinking. 

This meditative thinking is what we have in mind when 
we say that contemporary man is in flight-from-thinking. 
Yet you may protest : mere meditative thinking finds itself 
floating unaware above reality. It loses touch. It is worth- 
less for dealing with current business. It profits nothing in 
carrying out practical affairs. 

And you may say, finally, that mere meditative thinking, 
persevering meditation, is "above" the reach of ordinary 
understanding. In this excuse only this much is true, medi- 
tative thinking does not just happen by itself any more than 



MEMORIAL ADDRESS 47 

does calculative thinking. At times it requires a greater 
effort. It demands more practice. It is in need of even more 
delicate care than any other genuine craft. But it must also 
be able to bide its time, to await as does the farmer, whether 
the seed will come up and ripen. 

Yet anyone can follow the path of meditative thinking 
in his own manner and within his own limits. Why? Be- 
cause man is a thinking, that is, a meditating being. Thus 
meditative thinking need by no means be "high-flown." 
It is enough if we dwell on what lies close and meditate on 
what is closest 5 upon that which concerns us, each one of us, 
here and now ; here, on this patch of home ground 5 now, 
in the present hour of history. 

What does this celebration suggest to us, in case we are 
ready to meditate? Then we notice that a work of art has 
flowered in the ground of our homeland. As we hold this 
simple fact in mind, we cannot help remembering at once 
that during the last two centuries great poets and thinkers 
have been brought forth from the Swabian land. Thinking 
about it further makes clear at once that Central Germany 
is likewise such a land, and so are East Prussia, Silesia, and 
Bohemia. 

We grow thoughtful and ask : does not the flourishing of 
any genuine work depend upon its roots in a native soil? 
Johann Peter Hebel once wrote: "We are plants which — 
whether we like to admit it to ourselves or not — must with 
our roots rise out of the earth in order to bloom in the ether 
and to bear fruit." {Works, ed. Altwegg III, 314.) 

The poet means to say: For a truly joyous and salutary 
human work to flourish, man must be able to mount from 
the depth of his home ground up into the ether. Ether 



48 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

here means the free air of the high heavens, the open realm 
of the spirit. 

We grow more thoughtful and ask: does this claim of 
Johann Peter Hebel hold today? Does man still dwell 
calmly between heaven and earth? Does a meditative spirit 
still reign over the land? Is there still a life-giving home- 
land in whose ground man may stand rooted, that is, be 
autochthonic? 

Many Germans have lost their homeland, have had to 
leave their villages and towns, have been driven from 
their native soil. Countless others whose homeland was 
saved, have yet wandered off. They have been caught up 
in the turmoil of the big cities, and have resettled in the 
wastelands of industrial districts. They are strangers now 
to their former homeland. And those who have stayed on in 
their homeland? Often they are still more homeless than 
those who have been driven from their homeland. Hourly 
and daily they are chained to radio and television. Week 
after week the movies carry them off into uncommon, but 
often merely common, realms of the imagination, and give 
the illusion of a world that is no world. Picture magazines 
are everywhere available. All that with which modern 
techniques of communication stimulate, assail, and drive 
man — all that is already much closer to man today than 
his fields around his farmstead, closer than the sky over 
the earth, closer than the change from night to day, closer 
than the conventions and customs of his village, than the 
tradition of his native world. 

We grow more thoughtful and ask : What is happening 
here — with those driven from their homeland no less than 
with those who have remained? Answer: the rootedness, 



MEMORIAL ADDRESS 49 

the autochthony, of man is threatened today at its core! 
Even more : The loss of rootedness is caused not merely by 
circumstance and fortune, nor does it stem only from the 
negligence and the superficiality of man's way of life. 
The loss of autochthony springs from the spirit of the age 
into which all of us were born. 

We grow still more thoughtful and ask : If this is so, can 
man, can man's work in the future still be expected to thrive 
in the fertile ground of a homeland and mount into the 
ether, into the far reaches of the heavens and the spirit? 
Or will everything now fall into the clutches of planning 
and calculation, of organization and automation? 

If we reflect upon what our celebration today suggests, 
then we must observe the loss of man's autochthony with 
which our age is threatened. And we ask : What really is 
happening in our age? By what is it characterized? 

The age that is now beginning has been called of late 
the atomic age. Its most conspicuous symbol is the atom 
bomb. But this symbolizes only the obvious 5 for it was 
recognized at once that atomic energy can be used also for 
peaceful purposes. Nuclear physicists everywhere are busy 
with vast plans to implement the peaceful uses of atomic 
energy. The great industrial corporations of the leading 
countries, first of all England, have figured out already that 
atomic energy can develop into a gigantic business. 
Through this atomic business a new era of happiness is en- 
visioned. Nuclear science, too, does not stand idly by. It 
publicly proclaims this era of happiness. Thus in July of 
this year at Lake Constance, eighteen Nobel Prize winners 

3. The German Bodenstandigkeit is translated rootedness or autochthony 
depending on a literal or a more figurative connotation. (Tr.) 



50 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

stated in a proclamation: "Science [and that is modern 
natural science] is a road to a happier human life." 

What is the sense of this statement? Does it spring from 
reflection? Does it ever ponder on the meaning of the 
atomic age ? No ! For if we rest content with this statement 
of science, we remain as far as possible from a reflective 
insight into our age. Why? Because we forget to ponder. 
Because we forget to ask : What is the ground that enabled 
modern technology to discover and set free new energies in 
nature ? 

This is due to a revolution in leading concepts which 
has been going on for the past several centuries, and by 
which man is placed in a different world. This radical rev- 
olution in outlook has come about in modern philosophy. 
From this arises a completely new relation of man to the 
world and his place in it. The world now appears as an ob- 
ject open to the attacks of calculative thought, attacks that 
nothing is believed able any longer to resist. Nature be- 
comes a gigantic gasoline station, an energy source for 
modern technology and industry. This relation of man to 
the world as such, in principle a technical one, developed 
in the seventeenth century first and only in Europe. It long 
remained unknown in other continents, and it was al- 
together alien to former ages and histories. 

The power concealed in modern technology determines 
the relation of man to that which exists. It rules the whole 
earth. Indeed, already man is beginning to advance beyond 
the earth into outer space. In not quite twenty years, such 
gigantic sources of power have become known through the 
discovery of atomic energy that in the foreseeable future 
the world's demands for energy of any kind will be ensured 



MEMORIAL ADDRESS 51 

forever. Soon the procurement of the new energies will no 
longer be tied to certain countries and continents, as is 
the occurrence of coal, oil, and timber. In the foreseeable 
future it will be possible to build atomic power stations 
anywhere on earth. 

Thus the decisive question of science and technology to- 
day is no longer : Where do we find sufficient quantities 
of fuel ? The decisive question now runs : In what way can 
we tame and direct the unimaginably vast amounts of 
atomic energies, and so secure mankind against the danger 
that these gigantic energies suddenly — even without mili- 
tary actions — break out somewhere, "run away" and de- 
stroy everything? 

If the taming of atomic energy is successful, and it will 
be successful, then a totally new era of technical develop- 
ment will begin. What we know now as the technology of 
film and television, of transportation and especially air 
transportation, of news reporting, and as medical and 
nutritional technology, is presumably only a crude start. 
No one can foresee the radical changes to come. But tech- 
nological advance will move faster and faster and can never 
be stopped. In all areas of his existence, man will be en- 
circled ever more tightly by the forces of technology. These 
forces, which everywhere and every minute claim, enchain, 
drag along, press and impose upon man under the form of 
some technical contrivance or other — these forces, since 
man has not made them, have moved long since beyond his 
will and have outgrown his capacity for decision. 

But this too is characteristic of the new world of technol- 
ogy, that its accomplishments come most speedily to be 
known and publicly admired. Thus today everyone will be 



52 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

able to read what this talk says about technology in any 
competently managed picture magazine or hear it on the 
radio. But — it is one thing to have heard and read some- 
thing, that is, merely to take notice 5 it is another thing 
to understand what we have heard and read, that is, to 
ponder. 

The international meeting of Nobel Prize winners took 
place again in the summer of this year of 1955 in Lindau. 
There the American chemist, Stanley, had this to say : 
"The hour is near when life will be placed in the hands 
of the chemist who will be able to synthesize, split and 
change living substance at will." We take notice of such a 
statement. We even marvel at the daring of scientific re- 
search, without thinking about it. We do not stop to con- 
sider that an attack with technological means is being pre- 
pared upon the life and nature of man compared with 
which the explosion of the hydrogen bomb means little. 
For precisely if the hydrogen bombs do not explode and 
human life on earth is preserved, an uncanny change in the 
world moves upon us. 

Yet it is not that the world is becoming entirely technical 
which is really uncanny. Far more uncanny is our being 
unprepared for this transformation, our inability to con- 
front meditatively what is really dawning in this age. 

No single man, no group of men, no commission of 
prominent statesmen, scientists, and technicians, no con- 
ference of leaders of commerce and industry, can brake or 
direct the progress of history in the atomic age. No merely 
human organization is capable of gaining dominion over it. 

Is man, then, a defenseless and perplexed victim at the 



MEMORIAL ADDRESS 55 

mercy of the irresistible superior power of technology? He 
would be if man today abandons any intention to pit medi- 
tative thinking decisively against merely calculative think- 
ing. But once meditative thinking awakens, it must be at 
work unceasingly and on every last occasion — hence, also, 
here and now at this commemoration. For here we are con- 
sidering what is threatened especially in the atomic age : 
the autochthony of the works of man. 

Thus we ask now: even if the old rootedness is being 
lost in this age, may not a new ground and foundation be 
granted again to man, a foundation and ground out of 
which man's nature and all his works can flourish in a new 
way even in the atomic age ? 

What could the ground and foundation be for the new 
autochthony? Perhaps the answer we are looking for lies 
at hand 3 so near that we all too easily overlook it. For the 
way to what is near is always the longest and thus the 
hardest for us humans. This way is the way of meditative 
thinking. Meditative thinking demands of us not to cling 
one-sidedly to a single idea, nor to run down a one-track 
course of ideas. Meditative thinking demands of us that we 
engage ourselves with what at first sight does not go to- 
gether at all. 

Let us give it a trial. For all of us, the arrangements, de- 
vices, and machinery of technology are to a greater or lesser 
extent indispensable. It would be foolish to attack tech- 
nology blindly. It would be shortsighted to condemn it as 
the work of the devil. We depend on technical devices 5 
they even challenge us to ever greater advances. But sud- 
denly and unaware we find ourselves so firmly shackled to 



54 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

these technical devices that we fall into bondage to them. 

Still we can act otherwise. We can use technical devices, 
and yet with proper use also keep ourselves so free of them, 
that we may let go of them any time. We can use technical 
devices as they ought to be used, and also let them alone 
as something which does not affect our inner and real core. 
We can affirm the unavoidable use of technical devices, and 
also deny them the right to dominate us, and so to warp, 
confuse, and lay waste our nature. 

But will not saying both yes and no this way to technical 
devices make our relation to technology ambivalent and 
insecure? On the contrary! Our relation to technology will 
become wonderfully simple and relaxed. We let technical 
devices enter our daily life, and at the same time leave 
them outside, that is, let them alone, as things which are 
nothing absolute but remain dependent upon something 
higher. I would call this comportment toward technology 
which expresses "yes" and at the same time "no," by an 
old word, releasement toward things. 

Having this comportment we no longer view things only 
in a technical way. It gives us clear vision and we notice that 
while the production and use of machines demands of us 
another relation to things, it is not a meaningless relation. 
Farming and agriculture, for example, now have turned 
into a motorized food industry. Thus here, evidently, as 

4. Die Gelassenheit zu den Dingen. Gelassenheit, although used today in 
German in the sense of "composure," "calmness," and "unconcern," also 
has older meanings, being used by early German mystics (as Meister Eck- 
hart) in the sense of letting the world go and giving oneself to God. 
"Releasement" is not as old a word in English, but because it is rare and 
so free from too specific connotative meanings, it can carry with relative 
ease the very special and complex meanings which are implicit here and made 
explicit in the Conversation which follows. (Tr.) 



MEMORIAL ADDRESS 55 

elsewhere, a profound change is taking place in man's rela- 
tion to nature and to the world. But the meaning that reigns 
in this change remains obscure. 

There is then in all technical processes a meaning, 
not invented or made by us, which lays claim to what 
man does and leaves undone. We do not know the sig- 
nificance of the uncanny increasing dominance of atomic 
technology. The meaning pervading technology hides it- 
self. But if we explicitly and continuously heed the fact that 
such hidden meaning touches us everywhere in the world 
of technology, we stand at once within the realm of that 
which hides itself from us, and hides itself just in ap- 
proaching us. That which shows itself and at the same 
time withdraws is the essential trait of what we call the 
mystery. I call the comportment which enables us to keep 
open to the meaning hidden in technology, openness to the 
mystery. 

Releasement toward things and openness to the mystery 
belong together. They grant us the possibility of dwelling 
in the world in a totally different way. They promise us a 
new ground and foundation upon which we can stand and 
endure in the world of technology without being imperiled 
by it. 

Releasement toward things and openness to the mystery 
give us a vision of a new autochthony which someday even 
might be fit to recapture the old and now rapidly disappear- 
ing autochthony in a changed form. 

But for the time being — we do not know for how long — 
man finds himself in a perilous situation. Why? Just be- 
cause a third world war might break out unexpectedly and 
bring about the complete annihilation of humanity and the 



56 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

destruction of the earth? No. In this dawning atomic age 
a far greater danger threatens — precisely when the danger 
of a third world war has been removed. A strange assertion! 
Strange indeed, but only as long as we do not meditate. 

In what sense is the statement just made valid? This 
assertion is valid in the sense that the approaching tide of 
technological revolution in the atomic age could so capti- 
vate, bewitch, dazzle, and beguile man that calculative 
thinking may someday come to be accepted and practiced 
as the only way of thinking. 

What great danger then might move upon us? Then 
there might go hand in hand with the greatest ingenuity 
in calculative planning and inventing indifference toward 
meditative thinking, total thoughtlessness. And then? Then 
man would have denied and thrown away his own special 
nature — that he is a meditative being. Therefore, the issue 
is the saving of man's essential nature. Therefore, the issue 
is keeping meditative thinking alive. 

Yet releasement toward things and openness to the 
mystery never happen of themselves. They do not befall us 
accidentally. Both flourish only through persistent, cou- 
rageous thinking. 

Perhaps today's memorial celebration will prompt us to- 
ward this. If we respond to the prompting, we think of 
Conradin Kreutzer by thinking of the origin of his work, 
the life-giving powers of his Heuberg homeland. And it 
is we who think if we know ourselves here and now as 
the men who must find and prepare the way into the atomic 
age, through it and out of it. 

If releasement toward things and openness to the mystery 
awaken within us, then we should arrive at a path that 



MEMORIAL ADDRESS 57 

will lead to a new ground and foundation. In that ground 
the creativity which produces lasting works could strike 
new roots. 

Thus in a different manner and in a changed age, the 
truth of what Johann Peter Hebel says should be renewed : 

We are plants which — whether we like to admit it to ourselves or 
not — must with our roots rise out of the earth in order to bloom 
in the ether and to bear fruit. 



II 

CONVERSATION ON 
A COUNTRY PATH 
ABOUT THINKING* 



Scientist: Toward the last you stated that the question con- 
cerning man's nature is not a question about man. 

Teacher: I said only that the question concerning man's 
nature makes a consideration whether this is the case 
unavoidable. 

Scientist: Even so, it is a mystery to me how man's nature 
is ever to be found by looking away from man. 

Teacher: It is a mystery to me too; so I seek to clarify how 
far this is possible, or perhaps even necessary. — 

Scientist: To behold man's nature without looking at man! 

Teacher: Why not? If thinking is what distinguishes man's 
nature, then surely the essence of this nature, namely the 
nature of thinking, can be seen only by looking away 
from thinking. 

Scholar: But thinking, understood in the traditional way, 
as re-presenting is a kind of willing; Kant, too, under- 

* This discourse was taken from a conversation written down in 1944-45 
between a scientist, a scholar, and a teacher. 

58 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 59 

stands thinking this way when he characterizes it as 
spontaneity. To think is to will, and to will is to think. 

Scientist: Then the statement that the nature of thinking is 
something other than thinking means that thinking is 
something other than willing. 

Teacher: And that is why, in answer to your question as 
to what I really wanted from our meditation on the 
nature of thinking, I replied : I want non-willing. 

Scientist: Meanwhile this formulation has proved ambigu- 
ous. 

Scholar: Non- willing, for one thing, means a willing in 
such a way as to involve negation, be it even in the sense 
of a negation which is directed at willing- and renounces 
it. Non-willing means, therefore : willingly to renounce 
willing. And the term non-willing means, further, what 
remains absolutely outside any kind of will. 

Scientist: So that it can never be carried out or reached 
by any willing. 

Teacher: But perhaps we come nearer to it by a willing in 
the first sense of non-willing. 

Scholar: You see, then, the two senses of non-willing as 
standing in a definite relation to each other. 

Teacher: Not only do I see this relation, I confess that ever 
since I have tried to reflect on what moves our con- 
versation, it has claimed my attention, if not chal- 
lenged me. 

Scientist: Am I right if I state the relation of the one sense 
of non- willing; to the other as follows? You want a non- 
willing in the sense of a renouncing of willing, so that 
through this we may release, or at least prepare to re- 



60 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

lease, ourselves to the sought-for essence of a thinking 
that is not a willing. 

Teacher: You are not only right, but by the gods! as I 
would say if they had not flown from us, you have 
uncovered something essential. 

Scholar: I should now be tempted to say that you, in your 
interpretation of the ambiguous talk about non-willing, 
have surpassed both us and yourself — if anyone were en- 
titled to mete out praise and if that were not contrary 
to the style of our conversations. 

Scientist: That I succeeded in this, was not my doing but 
that of the night having set in, which without forcing 
compels concentration. 

Scholar: It leaves us time for meditating by slowing down 
our pace. 

Teacher: That is why we are still far from human habita- 
tion. 

Scientist: Ever more openly I am coming to trust in the in- 
conspicuous guide who takes us by the hand — or better 
said, by the word — in this conversation. 

Scholar: We need this guidance, because our conversation 
becomes ever more difficult. 

Teacher: If by "difficult" you mean the unaccustomed task 
which consists in weaning ourselves from will. 

Scholar: Will, you say, and not merely willing . . . 

Scientist: . . . and so, you state an exciting demand in a 
released manner. 

Teacher: If only I possessed already the right releasement, 
then I would soon be freed of that task of weaning. 

Scholar: So far as we can wean ourselves from willing, we 
contribute to the awakening of releasement. 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 61 

Teacher: Say rather, to keeping awake for releasement. 

Scholar: Why not, to the awakening? 

Teacher: Because on our own we do not awaken release- 
ment in ourselves. 

Scientist: Thus releasement is effected from somewhere else. 

Teacher: Not effected, but let in. 

Scholar: To be sure I don't know yet what the word release- 
ment means 5 but I seem to presage that releasement 
awakens when our nature is let-in so as to have dealings 
with that which is not a willing. 

Scientist: You speak without letup of a letting-be and give 
the impression that what is meant is a kind of passivity. 
All the same, I think I understand that it is in no way 
a matter of weakly allowing things to slide and drift 
along. 

Scholar: Perhaps a higher acting is concealed in release- 
ment than is found in all the actions within the world 
and in the machinations of all mankind . . . 

Teacher: . . . which higher acting is yet no activity. 

Scientist: Then releasement lies — if we may use the word 
lie — beyond the distinction between activity and pas- 
sivity . . . 

Scholar: . . . because releasement does not belong to the 
domain of the will. 

Scientist: The transition from willing into releasement is 
what seems difficult to me. 

Teacher: And all the more, since the nature of release- 
ment is still hidden. 

Scholar: Especially so because even releasement can still 
be thought of as within the domain of will, as is the 
case with old masters of thought such as Meister Eckhart. 



62 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

Teacher: From whom, all the same, much can be learned. 

Scholar: Certainly ; but what we have called releasement 
evidently does not mean casting off sinful selfishness and 
letting self-will go in favor of the divine will. 

Teacher: No, not that. 

Scientist: In many respects it is clear to me what the word 
releasement should not signify for us. But at the same 
time, I know less and less what we are talking about. 
We are trying to determine the nature of thinking. 
What has releasement to do with thinking? 

Teacher: Nothing if we conceive thinking in the traditional 
way as re-presenting. Yet perhaps the nature of think- 
ing we are seeking is fixed in releasement. 

Scientist: With the best of will, I can not re-present to my- 
self this nature of thinking;. 

Teacher: Precisely because this will of yours and your 
mode of thinking as re-presenting prevent it. 

Scientist: But then, what in the world am I to do? 

Scholar: I am asking myself that too. 

Teacher: We are to do nothing; but wait. 

Scholar: That is poor consolation. 

Teacher: Poor or not, we should not await consolation — 
something we would still be doing if we became dis- 
consolate. 

Scientist: Then what are we to wait for? And where are 
we to wait? I hardly know anymore who and where I am. 

Teacher: None of us knows that, as soon as we stop fooling 
ourselves. 

Scholar: And yet we still have our path? 

Teacher: To be sure. But by forgetting it too quickly we 
give up thinking. 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 63 

Scientist: What are we still to think about, in order to 
pass over to and into the nature of thinking which we 
have not yet come to know? 

Teacher: Why, about that from whence alone such a transi- 
tion can happen. 

Scholar: That means that you would not discard the tradi- 
tional view of the nature of thinking? 

Teacher: Have you forgotten what I said in our earlier 
conversation about what is revolutionary? 

Scientist: Forgetfulness does seem to be an especial danger 
in such conversations. 

Scholar: So now, if I understand correctly, we are to view 
what we call releasement in connection with the nature 
of thinking as talked about, even though we hardly know 
it and above all are unable to place it properly. 

Teacher: I mean exactly that. 

Scientist: Previously, we had come to see thinking in the 
form of transcendental-horizonal re-presenting. 

Scholar: This re-presenting, for instance, places before us 
what is typical of a tree, of a pitcher, of a bowl, of a 
stone, of plants, and of animals as that view into which 
we look when one thing confronts us in the appearance 
of a tree, another thing in the appearance of a pitcher, 
this in the appearance of a bowl, various things in the 
appearance of stones, many in the appearance of plants, 
and many in the appearance of animals. 

Scientist: You describe, once again, the horizon which en- 
circles the view of a thing — the field of vision. 

Teacher: It goes beyond the appearance of the objects. 

Scholar: Just as transcendence-passes beyond the perception 
of objects. 



64 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

Teacher: Thus we determine what is called horizon and 
transcendence by means of this going beyond and pass- 
ing beyond . . . 

Scholar: . . . which refer back to objects and our re- 
presenting of objects. 

Teacher: Horizon and transcendence, thus, are experienced 
and determined only relative to objects and our re- 
presenting them. 

Scholar: Why do you stress this? 

Teacher: To suggest that in this way what lets the horizon 
be what it is has not yet been encountered at all. 

Scientist: What do you have in mind in this statement? 

Teacher: We say that we look into the horizon. Therefore 
the field of vision is something open, but its openness is 
not due to our looking. 

Scholar: Likewise we do not place the appearance of ob- 
jects, which the view within a field of vision offers us, 
into this openness . . . 

Scientist: . . . rather that comes out of this to meet us. 

Teacher: What is evident of the horizon, then, is but the 
side facing us of an openness which surrounds us; an 
openness which is filled with views of the appearances of 
what to our re-presenting are objects. 

Scientist: In consequence the horizon is still something else 
besides a horizon. Yet after what has been said this 
something else is the other side of itself, and so the same 
as itself. You say that the horizon is the openness which 
surrounds us. But what is this openness as such, if we dis- 
regard that it can also appear as the horizon of our re- 
presenting? 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 65 

Teacher: It strikes me as something like a region, an en- 
chanted region where everything belonging there re- 
turns to that in which it rests. 

Scholar: I'm not sure I understand what you say now. 

Teacher: I don't understand it either, if by "understand- 
ing" you mean the capacity to re-present what is put be- 
fore us as if sheltered amid the familiar and so secured ; 
for I, too, lack the familiar in which to place what I 
tried to say about openness as a region. 

Scientist: That is perhaps impossible here, if for no other 
reason than because presumably what you call a region 
is exactly that which alone permits all sheltering. 

Teacher: I mean something like this; but not only this. 

Scholar: You spoke of "a" region in which everything re- 
turns to itself. Strictly speaking, a region for everything 
is not one region among many, but the region of all 
regions. 

Teacher: You are right 5 what is in question is the region. 

Scientist: And the enchantment of this region might well 
be the reign of its nature, its regioning, if I may call 
it that. 

Scholar: It seems a region holds what comes forward to 
meet us 5 but we also said of the horizon that out of the 
view which it encircles, the appearance of objects comes 
to meet us. If now we comprehend the horizon through 
the region, we take the region itself as that which comes 
to meet us. 

Teacher: In this way, indeed, we would characterize the 
region through its relation to us, just as we did a moment 
ago with the horizon — whereas we are searching for the 



66 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

nature, in itself, of the openness that surrounds us. If 
we now say this is the region, and say it with the mean- 
ing we just gave it, then the word must name something 
else. 

Scientist: Moreover, the coming to meet us is not at all a 
basic characteristic of region, let alone the basic char- 
acteristic. What does this word imply? 

Scholar: In its older form it is "Gegnet" and means open 
expanse. Can anything be learned from this about the 
nature of what we now call the region ? 

Teacher: The region gathers, just as if nothing were 
happening, each to each and each to all into an abiding, 
while resting in itself. Regioning is a gathering and 
re-sheltering for an expanded resting in an abiding. 

Scholar: So the region itself is at once an expanse and an 
abiding. It abides into the expanse of resting. It expands 
into the abiding of what has freely turned toward itself. 
In view of this usage of the word, we may also say "that- 
which-regions" in place of the familiar "region." 

Teacher: That-which-regions is an abiding expanse which, 
gathering all, opens itself, so that in it openness is halted 
and held, letting everything merge in its own resting. 

Scientist: I believe I see that-which-regions as withdrawing 
rather than coming to meet us . . . 

1. The German word for region is Gegend. What is in question here, 
however, is not region in general, but as Heidegger says, "the region of 
all regions" ("die Gegend aller Gegenden") or the region. Heidegger 
uses an old variant of Gegend as the word for the region: die Gegnet — 
a word that still occurs in spoken German although only in South German 
dialects. Since an analogous variant is not available for the English counter- 
part, die Gegnet has been rendered in the text by the phrase that-which- 
regions. That-which-regions reflects a movement attributed by Heidegger to 
die Gegnet and further emphasized by his use of the verb gegnen (to re- 
gion). (Tr.) 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 67 

Scholar: ... so that things which appear in that-which- 

regions no longer have the character of objects. 
Teacher: They not only no longer stand opposite us, they 

no longer stand at all. 
Scientist: Do they lie, then, or how about them? 
Teacher: They lie, if by this we mean that resting which 

was just discussed. 
Scientist: But where do things rest? What does resting 

consist of? 
Teacher: They rest in the return to the abiding of the 

expanse of their self-belonging. 
Scholar: But in this return, which after all is movement, 

can there be rest? 
Teacher: Indeed there can, if rest is the seat and the reign 

of all movement. 
Scientist: I must confess that I can't quite re-present in my 

mind all that you say about region, expanse and abiding, 

and about return and resting. 
Scholar: Probably it can't be re-presented at all, in so far 

as in re-presenting everything has become an object 

that stands opposite us within a horizon. 
Scientist: Then we can't really describe what we have 

named? 
Teacher: No. Any description would reify it. 
Scholar: Neverthless it lets itself be named, and being 

named it can be thought about . . . 
Teacher: . . . only if thinking is no longer re-presenting. 
Scientist: But then what else should it be? 
Teacher: Perhaps we now are close to being released into 

the nature of thinking . . . 
Scholar: . . . through waiting for its nature. 



68 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

Teacher: Waiting, all right ; but never awaiting, for await- 
ing already links itself with re-presenting and what is 
re-presented. 

Scholar: Waiting, however, lets go of that; or rather I 
should say that waiting lets re-presenting entirely alone. 
It really has no object. 

Scientist: Yet if we wait we always wait for something. 

Scholar: Certainly, but as soon as we re-present to ourselves 
and fix upon that for which we wait, we really wait no 
longer. 

Teacher: In waiting we leave open what we are waiting for. 

Scholar: Why? 

Teacher: Because waiting releases itself into openness . . . 

Scholar: . . . into the expanse of distance . . . 

Teacher: ... in whose nearness it finds the abiding in 
which it remains. 

Scientist: But remaining is a returning. 

Scholar: Openness itself would be that for which we could 
do nothing but wait. 

Scientist: But openness itself is that-which-regions . . . 

Teacher: . . . into which we are released by way of wait- 
ing, when we think. 

Scientist: Then thinking would be coming-into-the-near- 
ness of distance. 

Scholar: That is a daring definition of its nature, which 
we have chanced upon. 

Scientist: I only brought together that which we have 
named, but without re-presenting anything to myself. 

Teacher: Yet you have thought something. 

Scientist: Or, really, waited for something without know- 
ing for what. 

Scholar: But how come you suddenly could wait? 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 69 

Scientist: As I see more clearly just now, all during our 
conversation I have been waiting for the arrival of the 
nature of thinking. But waiting itself has become clearer 
to me now and therewith this too, that presumably we 
all became more waitful along our path. 

Teacher: Can you tell us how this is so? 

Scientist: I'll be glad to try, providing I don't have to run 
the risk that you will at once pin me down to particular 
words. 

Teacher: In our conversations, we don't usually do that. 

Scholar: Rather, we see to it that we move freely in the 
realm of words. 

Teacher: Because a word does not and never can re-present 
anything 5 but signifies something, that is, shows some- 
thing as abiding into the range of its expressibility. 

Scientist: I am to say why I came to wait and the way I suc- 
ceeded in clarifying the nature of thinking. I tried to re- 
lease myself of all re-presenting, because waiting moves 
into openness without re-presenting anything. And, re- 
leased from re-presenting, I tried to release myself purely 
to that-which-regions because that-which-regions is the 
opening of openness. 

Teacher: If I have it rightly, then, you tried to let yourself 
into releasement. 

Scientist: To be honest, I did not think of this partic- 
ularly, although we just spoke of releasement. The oc- 
casion which led me to let myself into waiting in the way 
mentioned was more the course of the conversation than 
the re-presentation of the specific objects we spoke about. 

Scholar: We can hardly come to releasement more fittingly 
than through an occasion of letting ourselves in. 



70 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

Teacher: Above all when the occasion is as inconspicuous 
as the silent course of a conversation that moves us. 

Scholar: But that means, the conversation brings us to that 
path which seems nothing else than releasement itself . . . 

Teacher: . . . which is something like rest. 

Scholar: At this point, how movement comes from rest 
and remains let into rest suddenly becomes clearer to me. 

Teacher: Then releasement would be not only a path but 
a movement. 

Scholar: Where does this strange path go? Where does 
the movement proper to it rest? 

Teacher: Where else but in that-which-regions, in rela- 
tion to which releasement is what it is. 

Scientist: Finally I must now go back and ask, how far is 
it really releasement into which I tried to let myself? 

Scholar: This question causes us great embarrassment. 

Teacher: In which we have found ourselves constantly 
along our path. 

Scientist: How so? 

Teacher: Because what we have designated by a word 
never has that word hanging on it like a name plate. 

Scientist: Whatever we designate has been nameless before ; 
this is true as well of what we name releasement. What 
do we go by, then, in order to estimate whether and 
how far the name is adequate? 

Scholar: Or does all designation remain an arbitrary act 
with regard to the nameless? 

Teacher: But is it really settled that there is the nameless 
at all? There is much which we often cannot say, but 
only because the name it has does not occur to us. 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 71 

Scholar: By virtue of what kind of designation would it 
have its name? 

Teacher: Perhaps these names are not the result of designa- 
tion. They are owed to a naming in which the namable, 
the name and the named occur altogether. 

Scientist: What you just said about naming is unclear to me. 

Scholar: Probably that is connected with the nature of 
words. 

Scientist: However, what you noted about designation, and 
about the fact that there is nothing nameless, is clearer 
to me. 

Scholar: Because we can test it in the case of the name 
releasement. 

Teacher: Or have tested it already. 

Scientist: How so? 

Teacher: What is it that you designated by the name re- 
leasement? 

Scientist: If I may say so, not I but you have used this name. 

Teacher: I, as little as you, have done the designating. 

Scholar: Then who did it? None of us? 

Teacher: Presumably, for in the region in which we stay 
everything is in the best order only if it has been no one's 
doing. 

Scientist: A mysterious region where there is nothing for 
which to be answerable. 

Teacher: Because it is the region of the word, which is 
answerable to itself alone. 

Scholar: For us it remains only to listen to the answer 
proper to the word. 

Teacher: That is enough 5 even when our telling is only 
a retelling of the answer heard . . . 



72 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

Scientist: . . . and when it doesn't matter in this if there 
is a first retelling or who does it; all the more since 
one often doesn't know whose tale he retells. 

Scholar: So let's not quarrel over who first introduced the 
name, releasement, let us consider only what it is we 
name by it. 

Scientist: And that is waiting, as the experience I referred 
to indicates. 

Teacher: And so not something nameless, but what is 
already designated. What is this waiting? 

Scientist: Insofar as waiting relates to openness and open- 
ness is that-which-regions, we can say that waiting is a 
relation to that-which-regions. 

Teacher: Perhaps it is even the relation to that-which- 
regions, insofar as waiting releases itself to that-which- 
regions, and in doing so lets that-which-regions reign 
purely as such. 

Scholar: Then a relation to something would be the true 
relation if it were held in its own nature by that to which 
it relates. 

Teacher: The relation to that-which-regions is waiting. 
And waiting means : to release oneself into the openness 
of that-which-regions. 

Scholar: Thus to go into that-which-regions. 

Scientist: That sounds as if before then we had been out- 
side that-which-regions. 

Teacher: That we were, and yet we were not. Insofar as 
we as thinking beings (that is, beings who at the same 
time re-present transcendentally) stay within the hori- 
zon of transcendence, we are not and never could be 
outside that-which-regions. Yet the horizon is but the 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 75 

side of that-which-regions turned toward our re-present- 
ing. That-which-regions surrounds us and reveals itself 
to us as the horizon. 

Scholar: It seems to me that as the horizon it rather con- 
ceals itself. 

Teacher: Certainly, nevertheless we are in that-which- 
regions when, re-presenting transcendentally, we step 
out into the horizon. And yet again we are still not in it, 
so far as we have not released ourselves for that-which- 
regions, as such. 

Scientist: Something which happens in waiting. 

Teacher: As you have said, in waiting we are released from 
our transcendental relation to the horizon. 

Scientist: This being-released-from is the first aspect of re- 
leasement; yet that does not hit its nature exactly, let 
alone exhaust it. 

Scholar: How not? 

Teacher: So far as authentic releasement may come about 
without necessarily being preceded by such being-re- 
leased-from horizontal transcendence. 

Scholar: If authentic releasement is to be the proper re- 
lation to that-which-regions, and if this relation is de- 
termined solely by what it is related to, then authentic 
releasement must be based upon that-which-regions, and 
must have received from it movement toward it. 

Teacher: Releasement comes out of that-which-regions be- 
cause in releasement man stays released to that-which- 
regions and, indeed, through this itself. He is released to 
it in his being, insofar as he originally belongs to it. He 
belongs to it insofar as he is appropriated initially to that- 
which-regions and, indeed, through this itself. 



74 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

Scholar: In fact (supposing that it is waiting which is essen- 
tial, that is, all-decisive) , waiting upon something is 
based on our belonging in that upon which we wait. 2 

Teacher: Out of the experience of and in relation to just 
such waiting upon the opening of that-which-regions, 
waiting came to be spoken of as releasement. 

Scholar: Thus waiting upon that-which-regions is named 
adequately. 

Scientist: But if heretofore the reigning essence of think- 
ing has been that transcendental-horizonal re-presenting 
from which releasement, because of its belonging to that- 
which-regions, releases itself; then thinking changes in 
releasement from such a re-presenting to waiting upon 
that-which-regions. 

Teacher: Yet the nature of this waiting is releasement to 
that-which-regions. But because it is that-which-regions 
which then lets releasement belong to it, since resting in 
it, the nature of thinking lies, if I may say so, in the re- 
gioning of releasement by that-which-regions. 

Scholar: Thinking is releasement to that-which-regions be- 
cause its nature lies in the regioning of releasement. 

Teacher: But by this you say that the nature of thinking is 
not determined through thinking and so not through 
waiting as such, but through the other-than-itself, that 
is, through that-which-regions which as regioning first 
brings forth this nature. 

Scientist: I can follow, after a fashion, all that we have said 
now about releasement, that-which-regions, and region- 
ing; all the same I can re-present nothing of it to myself. 

2. See Introduction for comment on the use of "waiting upon," p. 23. (Tr.) 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 75 

Scholar: You aren't supposed, to — if you think what was 
said in accordance with its nature. 

Scientist: You mean that we wait upon it in accordance with 
the changed nature of thinking. 

Scholar: That is, wait upon the regioning of that-which- 
regions, so that this releases our nature into that-which- 
regions, and so into belonging to it. 

Teacher: But if we are already appropriated to that-which- 
regions? 

Scientist: What good does that do us if we aren't truly 
appropriated? 

Scholar: Thus we are and we are not. 

Scientist: Again this restless to and fro between yes and no. 

Scholar: We are suspended as it were between the two. 

Teacher: Yet our stand in this betweenness is waiting. 

Scholar: That is the nature of releasement into which the 
regioning of that-which-regions regions man. We pre- 
sage the nature of thinking as releasement. 

Teacher: Only to forget releasement again as quickly. 

Scientist: That, which I myself have experienced as waiting. 

Teacher: We are to bear in mind that thinking is in no way 
self-subsisting releasement. Releasement to that-which- 
regions is thinking only as the regioning of releasement, 
a regioning which releases releasement into that-which- 
regions. 

Scholar: However, that-which-regions also makes things 
endure in the abiding expanse. What are we to call the 
regioning of that-which-regions with respect to things? 

Scientist: It can't be regioning with respect to man for that 
is the relation of that-which-regions to releasement, 



76 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

and releasement is said to shelter in itself the nature of 
thinking, whereas things themselves do not think. 

Teacher: Evidently things are things through the region- 
ing of that-which-regions as an earlier conversation on 
the abiding of the pitcher in the expanse of that-which- 
regions showed. However, the regioning of that-which- 
regions does not cause and effect things, as little indeed 
as that-which-regions effects releasement. That-which- 
regions in its regioning is neither the horizon of release- 
ment 5 nor is it the horizon of things, whether we ex- 
perience them only as objects or take them as "things- 
in-themselves" and in addition to objects. 

Scholar: What you now say seems to me so decisive that I 
would like to try fixing it in scholarly terminology. Of 
course I know that such terminology not only freezes 
thought, but at the same time also renders it ambiguous 
with just that ambiguity which unavoidably adheres to 
ordinary terminology. 

Teacher: After that scholarly reservation, you shouldn't 
hesitate to speak in a scholarly manner. 

Scholar: As you state it, the relation of that-which-regions 
to releasement is neither a connection of cause to effect, 
nor the transcendental-horizonal relation. To state it still 
more briefly and more generally: the relation between 
that-which-regions and releasement, if it can still be con- 
sidered a relation, can be thought of neither as ontic nor 
as ontological . . . 

Teacher: . . . but only as regioning. 

Scientist: Similarly, also, the relation between that-which- 
regions and the thing is neither a connection of cause to 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 77 

effect, nor the transcendental-horizonal relation; and 
hence neither an ontic nor an ontological relation. 

Scholar: But evidently, the relation of that-which-regions 
to the thing also is not regioning with respect to man's 
nature. 

Teacher: What are we then to call the relation of that- 
which-regions to the thing, if that-which-regions lets the 
thing abide in itself? 

Scientist: It determines the thing, as thing. 

Scholar: Therefore, it is best called the determining. 

Scientist: But determining is not making and effecting; nor 
is it rendering possible in the sense of the transcen- 
dental . . . 

Teacher: . . . but only the determining. 

Scientist: We must first learn to think what determining 
is . . . 

Teacher: ... by learning to become aware of the nature of 
thinking . . . 

Scholar: . . . that is by waiting upon determining and re- 
gioning with respect to man. 

Scientist: Nevertheless, such naming is also of some help 
even now in bringing a certain clarity into this variety 
of relations. Still, precisely that relation remains unde- 
fined whose characterization concerns me most of all. I 
mean the relation of man to the thing. 

Scholar: Why are you so persistent about this relation? 

Scientist: Earlier we began by illuminating the relation 
between the ego and the object by way of the factual re- 
lation of thought in the physical sciences to nature. The 
relation between the ego and the object, the often men- 



78 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

tioned subject-object relation, which I took to be most 
general, is apparently only an historical variation of the 
relation of man to the thing, so far as things can become 
objects . . . 

Teacher: . . . even have become objects before they at- 
tained their nature as things. 

Scholar: The same is true of the corresponding historical 
change of the human being to an ego . . . 

Teacher: . . . which likewise emerged before the nature of 
man could return to itself . . . 

Scientist: . . . providing we do not regard the coining of 
man into the animal rationale as final . . . 

Scholar: . . . which would hardly be possible after today's 
conversation. 

Scientist: I hesitate to decide upon this so quickly. How- 
ever, something else has become clear to me. In the rela- 
tion between ego and object there is concealed something 
historical, something which belongs to the history of 
man's nature. 

Teacher: Only so far as man's nature does not receive its 
stamp from man, but from what we call that-which-re- 
gions and its regioning, does the history you presage 
become the history of that-which-regions. 

Scientist: I can't follow you that far yet. I am content if 
some obscurity in the relation between ego and object 
is removed for me by this insight into its historical char- 
acter. For when I decided in favor of the methodological 
type of analysis in the physical sciences, you said that 
this way of looking at it was historical. 

Scholar: You strongly objected to that statement. 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 79 

Scientist: Now I see what was meant. The program of math- 
ematics and the experiment are grounded in the relation 
of man as ego to the thing as object. 

Teacher: They even constitute this relation in part and un- 
fold its historical character. 

Scientist: If any examination which focuses on what is a 
part of history is called historical, then the methodolog- 
ical analysis in physics is, indeed, historical. 

Scholar: Here the concept of the historical signifies a mode 
of knowing and is understood broadly. 

Teacher: Understood, presumably, as focused upon a his- 
tory which does not consist in the happenings and deeds 
of the world. 

Scholar: Nor in the cultural achievements of man. 

Scientist: But in what else? 

Teacher: The historical rests in that-which-regions, and in 
what occurs as that-which-regions. It rests in what, com- 
ing to pass in man, regions him into his nature. 

Scholar: A nature we have hardly experienced as yet, sup- 
posing it has not yet been realized in the rationality 
of the animal. 

Scientist: In such a situation we can do nothing but wait for 
man's nature. 

Teacher: Wait in a releasement through which we belong 
to that-which-regions, which still conceals its own nature. 

Scholar: We presage releasement to that-which-regions as 
the sought-for nature of thinking. 

Teacher: When we let ourselves into releasement to that- 
which-regions, we will non-willing. 

Scientist: Releasement is indeed the release of oneself from 
transcendental re-presentation and so a relinquishing of 



80 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

the willing of a horizon. Such relinquishing no longer 
stems from a willing, except that the occasion for releas- 
ing oneself to belonging to that-which-regions requires 
a trace of willing. This trace, however, vanishes while 
releasing oneself and is completely extinguished in re- 
leasement. 

Scholar: But in what ways is releasement related to what 
is not willing? 

Teacher: After all we said about the enduring of the abid- 
ing expanse, about letting rest in returning, about the 
regioning of that-which-regions, it is hardly possible to 
speak of that-which-regions as will. 

Scholar: Certainly the fact that on the one hand both the 
regioning with respect to man and the determining of 
that-which-regions, and on the other hand, all effecting 
and causing are essentially and mutually exclusive, 
shows how alien that is to anything pertaining to the 
will. 

Teacher: For every will wants to actualize, and to have 
actuality as its element. 

Scientist: Someone who heard us say this could easily get 
the impression that releasement floats in the realm of 
unreality and so in nothingness, and, lacking all power 
of action, is a will-less letting in of everything and, 
basically, the denial of the will to live ! 

Scholar: Do you then consider it necessary to counter this 
possible misunderstanding by showing in what respect 
something like power of action and resolve also reign in 
releasement? 

Scientist: Yes I do, although I don't fail to recognize that 
all such names at once misinterpret releasement as per- 
taining to the will. 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 81 

Scholar: So, for example, one needs to understand "re- 
solve" as it is understood in Being and Time: as the 
opening of man 3 particularly undertaken by him for 
openness . . . 

Teacher: . . . which we think of as that-which-regions. 

Scholar: If, in accordance with Greek story and thought, 
we are aware of the nature of truth as a dis-closure and 
recovery; then that-which-regions, we are reminded, is 
presumably the hidden coming forth of this nature. 

Scientist: Then the nature of thinking, namely, release- 
ment to that-which-regions, would be a resolve for the 
coming forth of truth's nature. 

Teacher: There could be a steadfastness hidden in release- 
ment, residing simply in the fact that releasement be- 
comes increasingly clearer about its inner nature and, 
being steadfast, stands within this. 

Scholar: That would be behavior which did not become a 
swaggering comportment, but which collected itself into 
and remained always the composure of releasement. 

Teacher: Releasement, thus composedly steadfast, would 
be a receiving of the regioning of that-which-regions. 

Scientist: This composed steadfastness, in which the nature 
of releasement rests, could be said perhaps to correspond 
to the highest willing; but it could not. This resting in 
itself of releasement, which lets it belong to the region- 
ing of that-which-regions with respect to man . . . 

Teacher: . . . and after a fashion to determining as well . . . 

Scientist: . . . this steadfastness of a belonging to that- 
which-regions which rests in itself, still lacks a name. 

Scholar: Perhaps the word "in-dwelling" could name some 
of this. At a friend's I once read a few lines which he 

3. Dasein (Tr.) . 



82 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

had copied somewhere. They contain an explanation of 
this word. I still remember them. They read : 

In-dwelling 
Never one truth alone ; 
To receive intact 

The coming forth of truth's nature 
In return for boundless steadfastness : 
Imbed the thinking heart 
In the humble patience 
Of unique high-minded 
And noble memories. 

Teacher: The in-dwelling in releasement to that-which- 
regions would then be the real nature of the spontaneity 
of thinking. 

Scholar: And, following the quoted lines, thinking would 
be commemoration, akin to what is noble. 

Teacher: In-dwelling in releasement to that-which-regions 
would be noble-mindedness itself. 

Scientist: It seems to me that this unbelievable night en- 
tices you both to exult. 

Teacher: So it does, if you mean exulting in waiting, 
through which we become more waitful and more void. 

Scholar: Apparently emptier, but richer in contingencies. 

Scientist: Then please tell me also, in your curious empti- 
ness, in what respect releasement can be akin to what is 
noble. 

Scholar: Noble is what has origins. 

Teacher: Not only that, but abides in the origins of its 
nature. 

Scientist: Now authentic releasement consists in this : that 
man in his very nature belongs to that-which-regions, 
i.e., he is released to it. 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 83 

Scholar: Not occasionally;, but — how shall we say it — prior 
to everything. 

Scientist: The prior, of which we really can not think . . . 

Teacher: . . . because the nature of thinking begins there. 

Scientist: Thus man's nature is released to that-which-rer 
gions in what is prior to thought. 

Scholar: Which is why we also added at once : and, indeed, 
through that-which-regions itself. 

Teacher: It appropriates man's nature for its own re- 
gioning. 

Scientist: So we have explained releasement. Nevertheless 
we have neglected to consider* — something that struck 
me at once — why man's nature is appropriated by that- 
which-regions. 

Scholar: Evidently the nature of man is released to that- 
which-regions because this belongs to it so essentially, 
that without man that-which-regions can not be a com- 
ing forth of all natures, as it is. 

Scientist: This is hardly conceivable. 

Teacher: It cannot be conceived at all so long as we want 
to re-present it to ourselves, that is, forcibly bring be- 
fore ourselves an objectively given relation between an 
object called "man" and an object called "that-which- 
regions." 

Scientist: That may be so. But even if we are mindful of 
that, doesn't there remain an insurmountable difficulty 
in the statement of the essential relation of human na- 
ture to that-which-regions? We have just characterized 
that-which-regions as the hidden nature of truth. If to 
be brief we say truth in place of that-which-regions, 
then the statement of the relation of human nature to 



84 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

that-which-regions is this : human nature is given over 
to truth, because truth needs man. Yet now the distin- 
guishing characteristic of truth — particularly in its re- 
lation to man — is, is it not, to be what it is independent 
of man? 

Scholar: Here indeed you touch upon a difficulty we can 
discuss only after we have explained the nature of truth 
as such, and have more clearly determined the nature of 
man. 

Teacher: Now we are but on our way to both. Neverthe- 
less, in order to make clearer what we have to reflect 
upon if we consider this relation by itself, I would like 
to paraphrase the statement about the relation of truth 
to man. 

Scientist: For the present, then, what you are to say about 
it will be an assertion only. 

Teacher: Assuredly, and I mean this : the nature of man 
is released to that-which-regions and used by it accord- 
ingly, for this reason alone — that man of himself has no 
power over truth and it remains independent of him. 
Truth's nature can come forth independently of man 
only because the nature of man (as releasement to that- 
which-regions) is used by that-which-regions in region- 
ing both with respect to man and to sustain determining. 
Evidently truth's independence from man is a relation 
to human nature, a relation which rests on the region- 
ing of human nature into that-which-regions. 

Scholar: If this were so, then man, as in-dwelhng in re- 
leasement to that-which-regions, would abide in the 
origin of his nature, which in consequence we may para- 
phrase : man is he who is made use of for the nature of 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 85 

truth. And so, abiding in his origin, man would be drawn 
to what is noble in his nature. He would have a presenti- 
ment of the noble mind. 

Scientist: This presentiment could hardly be anything other 
than waiting, for the in-dwelling of releasement has been 
thought of as waiting. 

Scholar: So if that-which-regions were the abiding expanse, 
patience would extend the furthest — even to the expanse 
of the abiding, because it can wait the longest. 

Teacher: A patient noble-mindedness would be pure rest- 
ing in itself of that willing, which, renouncing willing, 
has released itself to what is not will. 

Scholar: Noble-mindedness would be the nature of thinking 
and thereby of thanking. 

Teacher: Of that thanking which does not have to thank 
for something, but only thanks for being allowed to 
thank. 

Scholar: In the nature of thinking so understood, we may 
have found what we seek. 

Scientist: On the supposition that we have found that in 
which everything in our conversation appears to rest. 
This is the nature of that-which-regions. 

Teacher: Because this is only supposed, let us add that for 
some time, as you have noted perhaps, we have said 
everything in the mode of supposition only. 

Scientist: All the same I can no longer hold back the confes- 
sion that while its nature has neared, that-which-regions 
itself seems to me to be further away than ever before. 

Scholar: You mean to say that you are near to its nature and 
yet are distant from that-which-regions itself? 



86 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

Scientist: But that-which-regions and its nature can't really 
be two different things — if we may speak here of things 
at all. 

Scholar: The self of that-which-regions is presumably its 
nature and identical with itself. 

Teacher: Then perhaps we can express our experience 
during this conversation by saying that we are coining 
near to and so at the same time remaining distant from 
that-which-regions $ although such remaining is, to be 
sure, a returning. 

Scholar: Only the nature of waiting and of releasement 
would be named in what you say. 

Scientist: Then what is that nearness and distance within 
which that-which-regions opens up and veils itself, ap- 
proaches and withdraws? 

Scholar: This nearness and distance can be nothing out- 
side that-which-regions. 

Teacher: Because that-which-regions regions all, gather- 
ing everything together and letting everything return to 
itself, to rest in its own identity. 

Scientist: Then that-which-regions itself would be nearing 
and distancing. 

Scholar: That-which-regions itself would be the nearness 
of distance, and the distance of nearness . . . 

Scientist: ... a characterization which should not be thought 
of dialectically . . . 

Teacher: . . . but how? 

Scientist: In accordance with the nature of thinking so far 
as determined solely by that-which-regions. 

Scholar: And so by waiting, by in-dwelling in releasement. 

Teacher: Yet what then would be the nature of thinking 
if that-which-regions is the nearness of distance? 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 87 

Scholar: Probably this can no longer be said in a single 
word. Still I know a word which up to now seemed to me 
appropriate to name the nature of thinking and so of 
knowing. 

Scientist: I would like to hear this word. 

Scholar: It is a word which had occurred to me as early 
as our first conversation. I had this in mind when I re- 
marked at the beginning of today's conversation that I 
owed a valuable suggestion to our first conversation on 
a country path. Several times in the course of today's 
conversation, I was about to propose this word 3 but each 
time it seemed to fit less what neared us as the nature 
of thinking. 

Scientist: You talk mysteriously about this thought of 
yours. It is as if you didn't want to reveal your discovery 
too soon. 

Scholar: The word I have in mind was not my discovery j 
it is merely a scholarly thought. 

Scientist: And thus, if I may say so, an historical reminder? 

Scholar: If you want to put it that way. Also it would have 
suited well the style of today's conversation, for in the 
course of it we often threw in words and sentences from 
Greek thought. But now this word no longer suits what 
we are attempting to name by a single word. 

Teacher: You mean the nature of thinking (that in-dwell- 
ing releasement to that-which-regions) which is the es- 
sentially human relation to that-which-regions, some- 
thing we presage as the nearness of distance. 

Scientist: Even if the word is no longer suitable, you might 
divulge it to us at the end of our conversation 3 for we 
again near human habitation, and in any case, must 
break off our discussion. 



88 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

Teacher: And even if this word, earlier esteemed by you as 
a valuable suggestion, is no longer suitable, it could make 
clear to us that meanwhile we have come to confront 
something ineffable. 

Scholar: This word is Heraclitus' word. 

Scientist: From which fragment did you take it? 

Scholar: This word struck me because it stands alone. It is 
that word, which, all by itself, constitutes Fragment 122. 

Scientist: I don't know this shortest of Heraclitus' Frag- 
ments. 

Scholar: It is scarcely noticed by others either, because one 
can do hardly anything with a single word. 

Scientist: How does the fragment read? 

Scholar: 'Ayx^aofrn 

Scientist: What does it mean? 

Scholar: The Greek word translates as "going toward." 

Scientist: I regard this word as an excellent name for desig- 
nating the nature of knowledge; for the character of 
advancing and moving toward objects is strikingly ex- 
pressed in it. 

Scholar: It appeared so to me too. That is also probably why 
it occurred to me in our first conversation, when we spoke 
of the action, the achievement, the work inherent in 
modern scientific knowledge, and, above all, in research. 

Scientist: Actually, one could use this Greek word to make 
clear the fact that scientific research is a kind of attack 
on nature, but one which nevertheless allows nature to 
be heard. 'Ayxipaab]; "going toward" : I could think of 
Heraclitus' word as keyword in an essay on the nature 
of modern science. 

Scholar: For that reason, too, I have hesitated to utter the 



CONVERSATION ON A COUNTRY PATH 89 

word at this point $ for it does not hit that nature of 
thinking which we have come to assume along our way. 

Scientist: Indeed, waiting is really almost a counter-move- 
ment to going toward. 

Scholar: Not to say a counter-rest. 

Teacher: Or simply rest. Yet has it been definitely decided 
that 'kyyifiaa'w] means going toward ? 

Scholar: Translated literally it says "going near." 

Teacher: Perhaps we could think of it also as: "moving- 
into-nearness." 

Scientist: You mean that quite literally in the sense of "let- 
ting-oneself-into-nearness" ? 

Teacher: About that. 

Scholar: Then this word might be the name, and perhaps 
the best name, for what we have found. 

Teacher: Which, in its nature, nevertheless, we are still 
seeking. 

Scholar: 'Ayx^aaiT] : "moving-into-nearness." The word 
could rather, so it seems to me now, be the name for 
our walk today along this country path. 

Teacher: Which guided us deep into the night . . . 

Scientist: . . . that gleams ever more splendidly . . . 

Scholar: . . . and overwhelms the stars . . . 

Teacher: . . . because it nears their distances in the heav- 
ens . . . 

Scientist: ... at least for the naive observer, although not 
for the exact scientist. 

Teacher: Ever to the child in man, night neighbors the 
stars. 

Scholar: She binds together without seam or edge or thread. 



90 DISCOURSE ON THINKING 

Scientist: She neighbors 3 because she works only with near- 
ness. 

Scholar: If she ever works rather than rests . . . 

Teacher: . . . while wondering upon the depths of the height. 

Scholar: Then wonder can open what is locked? 

Scientist: By way of waiting . . . 

Teacher: ... if this is released . . . 

Scholar: . . . and human nature remains appropriated to 
that . . . 

Teacher: . . . from whence we are called. 



GLOSSARY 



This glossary includes only those words especially important to the 
argument which are translated in more or less unusual ways. 



ahnen 
Ausdauer 



to presage 
steadfastness 



Bedingnis 



determining, regioning with respect 
to things 



besinnliches Denken 


meditative thinking 


Bestandnis 


steadfastness 


Boden 


foundation, ground, soil 


bodenstandig 


rooted, autochthonic 


Bodenstandigkeit 


rootedness, autochthony 


Edelmut 


noble mind, noble-mindedness 


eigentlich 


authentic 


einlassen; sich einlassen 


let in, release; release oneself to, let 




oneself in, engage in 


Entschlossenheit 


resolve 


Feldweg 


country path 


fern 


distant 


Feme 


distance 


ge-eignet, geeignet 


appropriated, appropriate (d) 


gegnen 


to region 



91 



92 



GLOSSARY 



Gegnet that-which-regions 

gelassen released 

Gelassenheit releasement 

Gelassenheit zu den Dingen releasement toward things 

Grund ground 

Grund und Boden ground and foundation 



Haltung 


comportment 


Herkunft 


origins, origin 


In-sich-beruhen 


resting in itself 


Instandigkeit 


in-dwelling 


Menschenwesen 


human nature 


nahe 


near 


Nahe 


nearness 



Offene, das openness 

Offenheit fur das Geheimnis openness to the mystery 



rechnendes Denken 



calculative thinking 






' 






Technik technology 

transzendental-horizontal transcendental-horizonal 



iiberlassen (adj.) 
unheimlich 



released 
uncanny 



vereignet 
Vergegnis 



appropriated by 

regioning (with respect to man) 



GLOS S ARY 



95 



verhalten (adj.) 
Verhaltenheit 
verweilen 
verweilende Weite 
vorstellen 



composed 
composure 
to abide, endure 
abiding expanse 
to re-present 



walten 

warten auf 

Weile 

Weile der Weite, die 

Weite 

Weite der Weile, die 

Wesen 

wesende Wahrheit 

west, Gegnet 

west, Wahrheit 



to reign 

to wait for, upon 

abiding 

abiding expanse 

expanse 

expanse of the abiding 

nature, essence (rarely) 

coming forth of truth's nature 

that-which-regions first brings 

forth a nature 

truth's nature comes forth 



DateRe) 



LibraryWSrTDOT 

Date Due Slip ^ 

DatcDue 



- — I 

3 




H —GS^B.cl 



Gelassenheit. main 
111H465gEa 



3 12fc,2 03355 7143 



KEEP CARD IN POCIttT 

■■' ; S8 mi 




IT IS IMPORTANT THAT 
CARD BE KEPT IN POCKET